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By Michael Ferraro | June 19, 2006

Apart From That is an incredibly rich portrait of a group of various characters living their lives in a rural area of Washington. The opening credits sequence sets up the rest of the film for the audience in a way that few films ever do with a simple gathering of friends. Here, we are exposed to the naturalistic direction with equally effortless performances to compliment it. The dialogue is candid, almost with an improvised feel, it’s as we are finally opening the shades to a window not yet opened that exposes us to this eccentric group of people.

There is an elderly woman named Peggy who rents out one of the empty room of her house to a single and shy woman named Ulla. Peggy is a lonesome sort who often resorts to setting her smoke alarms off in an attempt to gain some affection from the local firemen who keep returning to her house call after fake call (and dealing with having to see her in revealing clothes). Ulla is captivated by Peggy’s lifestyle so much that she tape-records every sound she makes. “This is the sound of Peggy reading a magazine,” then proceeds to flip the pages so she has every noise documented for some unknown purpose.

Also in focus are a Vietnamese banker, Sam, and his adopted son Kyle. Their close relationship becomes tumultuous when Sam is forced to fire the father of Kyle’s best friend. Kyle’s youthful curiosity wants to hear about the scenario in great detail when his friendship is destroyed by the event.

How rare of a treat this film is. Most of the acting is done with a sort of brilliant perfection not usually seen with a group of mostly first-time actors. First-time filmmaking team Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin wrote, produced, directed and edited the film like pros. It’s a film as real and honest as that of an old Cassavetes film. Apart From That is a definite must see.

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