Julie (Nina Kaczorowski) is alone in Montauk, newly pregnant and taking pictures for her upcoming art show. When her in-condo activities cause annoyance in her condo neighbor Christian (Lukas Hassel), the musician politely asks if Julie can move to a different building. Julie cannot, however (since she owns the condo), and the two maintain as much distance as they can, until Julie injures herself and, in order to finish out her work for the art show, elicits Christian to help her.
At first he’s little more than manual labor and support, but as their time together grows he becomes a subject for the photos and Julie’s artistic and emotional muse. The situation gets more complicated when Julie’s husband Josh (George Katt) visits to make sure she is getting on okay, and Julie admits her reticence about having a child with her career on the upswing. Suddenly a work-trip to Montauk becomes a series of events that will have serious repercussions on everyone’s lives for years to come.
In Montauk is a tale of the uncomfortable and almost impossible choices that can occur in a person’s life. Finally establishing her career, it isn’t surprising that Julie would have doubts about whether to have the baby. Couple that with the attraction that inherently follows anyone who becomes your muse, in art or otherwise, and you’ve got an intense situation that isn’t about “good” people and “bad” people. Josh doesn’t have to be a bad husband for Julie to think about stepping out, nor does it make Julie a bad person for contemplating it in the first place. She’s about to make one of the biggest decisions a woman can make, whether or not to have a baby, and that moment tends to cause reflection and scrutiny on all aspects of a person’s life.
There’s emotional complexity abundant in this film, but the film balances the turmoil that could exist in your head with the cinematography and composition. The camera often makes similar decisions, and frames the image, just as Julie would do in her photographs, which pulls the audience into Julie’s point of view even when she’s in the image herself. It’s an intimacy that works.
And beyond the aesthetics and the overall mood of the piece, the intimacy also works due to the quality performances of the three main leads. Nina Kaczorowski’s Julie never loses the audience, even as her decisions get tougher. Lukas Hassel’s Christian embodies many qualities of the perfect artistic muse to start, inspiring and yet seemingly disinterested, which only makes him more intriguing, before finding that he needs a muse too. George Katt’s Josh could’ve been all anger and histrionics, or gone the other route and been unsympathetic and pitiful, but the performance stays relatable, and Josh becomes the unprompted casualty of friendly fire.
Life is complex, and sometimes making all the seemingly right choices ends up being wrong; likewise, sometimes the wrong decision feels the most right. In Montauk explores what it is to be faced with these choices, and the consequences once a decision is made. It is powerful and beautiful, tense in its emotions, and also draining (but in a good, “I just went on a personal journey and I’m spent” way). In the end, the emotional effort is worth it.
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