Among Luke and Jo’s many laudable qualities, probably its greatest achievement is the sleight of hand it pulls on the audience; what for a substantial portion of its runtime feels like an extended series of “will they or won’t they” scenarios—Will Luke’s genius be recognized? Will Jo be able to develop a relationship with her absent father? Will Luke and Jo end up together?—develops into a poignant exploration of artistic struggle, self-sabotage, and the crushing vulnerability required to define yourself, artistically, and interpersonally.
Luke’s story takes on the film-about-filmmaking angle. Luke is an apparently talented writer whose problem, according to his wife, is that no one meets his expectations for how much they should like his work, or as she puts it: “You expect everyone to go crazy over it the way that you do!” Despite the rather ungenerous portrayal of his cold and impatient wife, her point, that he is inflexible and arrogant, is a critique any creative person can identify with to some degree.
“…the two find a mutual connection in their out-of-placeness and begin a tender if not heavy companionship…”
Jo is an artist as well, a musician whose synthy dream pop would fit right in at The Roadhouse from Twin Peaks. And while some drama is mined from issues with performance spaces and a tempestuous relationship with her manager, Jo’s story focuses on her being unmoored as she returns to her hometown, ostensibly for a gig, but more likely to reconnect with her sister and father. Like Jo, her father is a road musician and appears to drop in and out of her life with a moment’s notice. He is gregarious, eccentric, detached, and withholding, all the things you want from a father figure.
After Jo and Luke meet under dramatic circumstance in which a despondent Luke wanders into the middle of the road and is almost hit by a drunk driving Jo, the two find a mutual connection in their out-of-placeness and begin a tender if not heavy companionship mostly revolving around long walk and talk sequences through the streets of the city, that can’t help but call to mind images of Jesse and Celine walking through the streets of Europe in the Before trilogy.
"…stands out by virtue of its restraint."