Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
James Franco Will Direct Film Based on Aziah "Zola" Wells' 148-Tweet Narrative That Went Viral James Franco Will Direct Film Based on Aziah "Zola" Wells' 148-Tweet Narrative That Went Viral Regarding 'Song of the South' – The Film That Disney Doesn’t Want You to See Regarding 'Song of the South' – The Film That Disney Doesn’t Want You to See Watch Mekhi Phifer in Trailer for "First-Person Shooter" Zombie Thriller, 'Pandemic' Watch Mekhi Phifer in Trailer for "First-Person Shooter" Zombie Thriller, 'Pandemic' 2016 SXSW Feature Films Lineup Announced - Several World Premieres of Note 2016 SXSW Feature Films Lineup Announced - Several World Premieres of Note HBO Sets April Premiere Date for 'Confirmation' HBO Sets April Premiere Date for 'Confirmation' Watch the Electrifying First Trailer for Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Watch the Electrifying First Trailer for Don Cheadle's 'Miles Ahead' Watch: Tyler Perry Previews 'The Passion' 2-Hour Musical Event in New Orleans Watch: Tyler Perry Previews 'The Passion' 2-Hour Musical Event in New Orleans Before Nate Parker's Nat Turner Film Is Released, Get Prepped By Watching Charles Burnett's 2003 Documentary Before Nate Parker's Nat Turner Film Is Released, Get Prepped By Watching Charles Burnett's 2003 Documentary There Is a Precedent for the "DuVernay Test" to Consider... There Is a Precedent for the "DuVernay Test" to Consider... Idris Elba Makes SAG Awards History + Viola Davis, Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah Collect Trophies Idris Elba Makes SAG Awards History + Viola Davis, Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah Collect Trophies Ryan Coogler to Deliver Prestigious University of Chicago Kent Lecture Feb. 9 Ryan Coogler to Deliver Prestigious University of Chicago Kent Lecture Feb. 9 First-Look at David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in Amma Asante's 'A United Kingdom' First-Look at David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in Amma Asante's 'A United Kingdom' Watch Episode 1 of PBS' New Civil War-Set Drama Series 'Mercy Street' + On-Set Visit Watch Episode 1 of PBS' New Civil War-Set Drama Series 'Mercy Street' + On-Set Visit Watch: OWN Previews New Primetime Series 'It's Not You, It's Men' (Tyrese Gibson & Rev Run Host) Watch: OWN Previews New Primetime Series 'It's Not You, It's Men' (Tyrese Gibson & Rev Run Host) First Look at Nate Parker's Nat Turner Film, 'The Birth of a Nation' First Look at Nate Parker's Nat Turner Film, 'The Birth of a Nation' TV One Aims to Change the Reality Genre with New Series, 'The Next 15' TV One Aims to Change the Reality Genre with New Series, 'The Next 15' Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton Is Heading to TV Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton Is Heading to TV Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

PAFF 2013 Review: Unconventional Dark Romance 'Apartment 4E' Anchored By Challenging, Compelling Performances

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act February 14, 2013 at 9:14PM

Screening at the ongoing Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, now in the latter half of this year's run, is Russell Sharman’s micro-budget indie Apartment 4E (previously titled Small Of Her Back) - a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.
3
Small of her back still

Screening at the ongoing Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, now in the latter half of this year's run, is Russell Sharman’s micro-budget indie Apartment 4E (previously titled Small Of Her Back) - a two-character dark romance about Piper (Nicole Beharie), a young woman diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder who gets a knock on her door by John (newcomer Christopher Domig), a man who claims to be the brother of a Molly; the latter is a woman Piper has built an online relationship with for the past three months.

Apartment 4E – described as a “suicidal shut in” - has the feel of a stage play, especially the scenes – where most of the film takes place – between Piper and John in Piper’s small, clustered apartment. And it’s no surprise; writer/director Sharman adapted his 2008 stage play of the same name to the screen.

It’s not a film for everyone; but one that I definitely appreciated for its script - intelligent, clever wordplay and original, unpredictable twists - and compelling performances by Beharie and Domig. And perhaps it’s not a film for everyone because its references to “catching a meaning”, its in-depth mental illness/Psychiatry terminology and a book of poems called Constance by Jane Kenyon, as well as what may be seen as a wacky – rather unconventional, some will call theatrical – performance by Beharie may be lost on some.

sm of her back still

But that’s why I also enjoyed this film.  I do not recall a film with a black female lead – actually Halle Berry’s Frankie and Alice comes to mind - that is as complex, challenging, and devoid of racial references as this one. Taking in consideration that the film was shot over 14 days and the actors rehearsed for only two, the results are pretty amazing.

When we first meet Piper in her apt as she sticks pieces of notepaper all over her walls and in monologue attempting to come up with specific words, we can’t quite figure out her eccentric antics. John, a lonesome, melancholic character comes to Piper’s door and tries to convince her that he’s Molly’s brother. After hearing Piper fire a gun, he breaks in the door and eventually settles in her apartment.

Piper is moody and compulsive; she’s manic; she’s unpredictable; welcoming and flirtatious one minute and angry, defensive, homicidal and suicidal the next.  She lives in a fantasy world –it’s safe- in which her online “friend” Molly, whom she has never met/seen aside from the “four little flat pictures and characters on the screen”, really loves her.

The mystery lies in finding out the intentions of these two characters. Why is John so adamant in trying “to help” Piper? Is he really Molly’s brother? Piper isn’t naïve, and as the film progresses she outsmarts John as she solves the puzzle.  Domig, a newcomer with a few credits under his belt, pulls off a rich and layered performance as the observant, seemingly kind-natured John. The two unlikely characters have chemistry; and even though there’s no explicit romance, there’s plenty of tension.

I couldn’t help thinking of the taboos of mental illness, especially in the black community. It’s easy to label Piper and say, “She’s crazy”. Yet, it’s not because she’s a “crack-head”. Piper is incredibly astute and bright. It’s also difficult to overlook her beauty, but Beharie is able to pull it off convincingly. Another aspect which adds complexity and the element of taboo is her character's dubious sexuality. Is she a Lesbian? Bi? Does it matter?

For its very limited budget, the film’s cinematography by Noah Yuan-Vogel is quite stunning.

It’s not a perfect film; some scenes had an experimental feel to them. Yet, the film’s distinct peculiarities stay with you long after watching it, which is why I found Apartment 4E intellectually stimulating and gripping.

One Village Entertainment picked up worldwide rights to the film last month, for release later this year.

In the meantime, it'll screen again at the PAFF on Sunday.

For updates, follow up the film on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SmallOfHerBack

small of her back poster

Shadow & ActNewsletter