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By Jamie Tipps | September 23, 2007

In the crowded city of New York, Rose, Tomás, and Simon are lost.

Existing in self-imposed isolation, each needs help, but is unable to ask for it. Past grief separates optometrist Rose from her husband, and the impending loss of his eyesight shows Tomás the need for loved ones in his future. A painfully shy young man, Simon finds he cannot communicate with anyone in the present, observing others only through the distance of a photographic lens. However, a chance encounter changes their lives. Simon snaps a picture of Rose as she sits in the park, capturing her sadness on film. The event causes the lives of the relative strangers to intertwine, and the contact draws them back into the world.

Despite a few jarring elements—which include incest and masochism, “Adrift in Manhattan” is a quietly moving film about alienation and connection. What I like here is that it is not the coldness of the city that causes these characters to be alone; all around, people reach out to them. However, Rose, Tomás and Simon choose to remain aloof until their interaction compels them to emotionally open up.

The film provides several superb performances. Dominic Chianese brings dignity to the role of Tomás, and Victor Rusuk, as Simon, conveys so much emotion using little dialogue. William Baldwin, in a small role as Rose’s estranged husband, deftly delivers the movie’s best comedic moments as well as some of its poignant scenes. The one flaw in casting may be Heather Graham. As the main character, she just doesn’t have the gravitas of her counterparts. While pleasantly sympathetic as Rose, she never takes us to the emotional depths that the film calls for. Because our primary means of gauging her emotional state seems to be whether or not she wears her hair up or down, I can’t help thinking that an actress with more range would have enhanced the film greatly. What, was Kate Winslet busy?

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