In Choosing Signs Jennifer (Jessica Lancaster) is an American woman whose life decisions have had ruinous results. In one more possible example of poor decision making, she decides to leave her fate to fortune and take her guidance from the universe through various methods of random-chance divination. The universe is omnipotent and omniscient, but apparently can’t figure out how to communicate directly. She follows a coin toss instructing her to travel to Ireland to live with her boyfriend, Marc (Stephen Wyley) in Cork. Marc is well intentioned, but also a bit of a knob, cluelessly angling to make his fortune as a slumlord building claustrophobic apartments for poor immigrants. His market research consists of asking his Russian housekeeper Svletlana (Betsy Douds) to describe how small the living quarters are back home.
“…everything in Cork is charming, including Eamon …“
Jennifer brings her brother Matty (Jeremiah Ocanas) with her. He has mental health issues with obsessive behavior and she gets him placed in a residential facility, with Marc paying the bills. One bright light in her chaotic life is that everything in Cork is charming, including Eamon (Owen Dara), one of Matty’s caregivers. The two hit it off sparky, but poor choices are made (again) and Jennifer must choose the signs that might lead her to happiness and love without destroying everyone around her.
In addition to starring in the film as Eamon, Owen Dara wrote the script and directed, as well as writing and performing original songs for the soundtrack. The music informs and enlightens the film, giving it a very specific sense of Ireland, reminiscent of Glen Hansard’s singer/songwriter music for Once. Dara gets nuanced and affecting performances from his actors and as an actor he moves with charm and grace, articulating Eamon’s initial delight with Jennifer and later frustration with her inability to make a decision. He keeps you guessing where the story is leading, not telegraphing whether it will end well for anyone. Marc and Svetlana are 2-dimensional background characters, played mostly for laughs, but would have been more satisfying fully fleshed out.
As dramatic comedies go, Choosing Signs is a lovely story with characters you’ll be attracted to and invested in, a first film so full of confidence and wit that it feels like the filmmaker has far more experience.
Currently available on VOD, including streaming on Amazon.
Choosing Signs (2018). Written and directed by Owen Dara. Starring Owen Dara, Jessica Lancaster, Betsy Douds.
8 out of 10