The Doldrums Image

The Doldrums

By Bobby LePire | June 8, 2023

Leonardo Nussenzveig makes his feature-length debut as a writer and director with the slice-of-life The Doldrums. Cole (Matthew Hadley), Matt (Matthew Price), and Alec (Nick Hansell) spend their high school days getting high and drinking because what else are they going to in their small suburb of Texas? This leads the trio into trouble, such as when they are caught with alcohol in a public park at night. The police officer is cool though the girl they were with’s parents is far less understanding.

As senior year wraps up, Alec looks to the future. He goes to college and gets a job lined up in New York City. On his return trips, Cole and Matt wrangle him into more drinking and smoking and trouble. But Alec begins to pull away, wanting to grow up. Will his friends weigh him down, or will they, too (eventually), realize what entering the real world entails?

The Doldrums does not condone the actions of its three leads. It is rather refreshing, as the film never becomes an anti-drug PSA and is closer to a punk rock “anti-coming-of-age” parable. Nussenzveig places Alec, Matt, and Cole into various situations and watches their reactions. The screenplay is divided into chapters, including a prologue, and each one is a new scenario. Some are longer than others, but all push the ultimate point the film is making.

“…Cole and Matt wrangle him into more drinking and smoking…”

The acting is perfectly calibrated to the burnt-out escapades the characters get into. Hadley is rather sweet as the perpetual druggie whose life spirals out of his control. Price is annoying but in that endearing kind of way. Hansell is fantastic, providing an entire character arc in a film that is hardly concerned with plotting or forward momentum.

Some scenes do go on a bit too long or feel unnecessary. There’s a secondary caught in the park by cops moment that, while funny, is old hat. It is intercut with a frienemy of theirs complaining on the phone about his life. This is also unnecessary. But a wonderful animated sequence near the end is as trippy as it is cool.

The Doldrums is a very different sort of slice-of-life movie, and that is why it works. The story structure largely avoids cliches, and the ending works perfectly. The cast proves more than up to the challenge, turning potential caricatures into fully-developed people.

For more information, visit Leonardo Nussenzveig’s official site.

The Doldrums (2023)

Directed and Written: Leonardo Nussenzveig

Starring: Matthew Hadley, Matthew Price, Nick Hansell, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

The Doldrums Image

"…largely avoids cliches..."

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