“Autumn Leaves” conveys more feeling in eight minutes than most full-length movies I’ve seen in the theater this year. “Leaves” stars Amanda Melby as a cellist who also happens to be deaf and mute. In one of the first scenes, we see her practicing in her apartment, ear pressed to the instrument’s neck so she can feel the vibrations. Soon after this, we cut to her rehearsing for an ensemble but, and through no fault of her own, she boots the audition and runs out of the room. Another cellist (Brian Krow) at the audition follows and finds her playing alone on the deserted main stage. It dawns on him that she can’t hear, and he hits upon a unique means of communicating with her.
If this all sounds like rank sentimentality, then I’m not doing my job very well. There are barely a dozen words of spoken dialogue in the film, as essentially all emotion is conveyed through Melby’s performance, the music in the film (including Bach’s Suite #1 in G Major and Brahms’ String Quartet No. 3 in B Flat), and newcomer Timm Doolen’s skilled direction. In fact, I was as impressed with the look of the piece as I was with the acting. “Autumn Leaves” manages to be stirring without descending into schmaltz. If I had his address, I’d send a copy to Michael Bay. Next-day air.