"Nobody Walks" forsakes the far country of the past for an eminently recognizable present, a wealthy, dreamy, dusky Los Angeles of Italian instructors and hill houses and classic cars, of swimming pools and sweeping views of the pulsing alien communication that the city becomes at night. It, too, is immersed in sound, from the clatter of snapping fingers to a thirsty squeeze of lemon. The noise of human connection, and disconnection, too: the film's most audacious moment cuts between a full house and a soundproof room, as though silence were an indiscretion.
Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Peter (John Krasinski) are hosting Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a New York artist, as Peter, a Hollywood sound editor, helps her put together a video installation for an upcoming gallery opening. Directed by Ry Russo-Young, from a script he co-wrote with "Girls" polymath Lena Dunham, "Nobody Walks" is in some respects as slim as "Chico & Rita" — Thirlby remains a cipher, drifting in and our of lust, while appearances by Dylan McDermott and Justin Kirk never amount to much. Yet I was enamored of it, of the space it opens up between wanting to have sex and wanting to swear it off, of the way it hides the subtle slights and deprecations of relationships within its wall of sound.
Perhaps this feeling has something to do with DeWitt, an actress who evinces a preternatural ability to take the thankless role (Village radical, sober sister, stable wife) and find in it the core of the story. With Krasinski, she forms the nucleus of a family tossed about by its complications and loose ends, then arrives at her moment of suspicion head-on — "Just don't embarrass me," she says — lending it a refreshing frankness.
If things fall apart as expected, it may be that we imitate the natural world that Martine portrays in her art, running back the script and thinking each time that we'll get a different ending. "Nobody Walks" is such a lovely film because it admits that the noisy relationships we forge can only hint at the feelings we can't express aloud. "Heartache," Martine says. "What would that sound like?" It turns out we can only guess.
"Chico & Rita" is available today on Blu-ray and DVD. "Nobody Walks" is currently available on VOD, and arrives in theaters October 12.