The standout of the Shorts Program IV at the ‘05 Sundance Film Festival, Everything’s Gone Green is a beautifully rendered love story with something approaching the eccentric romanticism of Hal Hartley’s early pictures. Directed by the gifted Aaron Ruell, the picture tells the simple but strange story of William (Hamish Linklater), a man who hasn’t left his building in 14 years. He works in a one-room office, and lives in an adjoining one-room apartment. He rarely speaks. And yet he’s managed to capture the fancy of Rosemarie (Alexandra Holden), the building’s receptionist. In an enchanting series of vignettes interwoven with gentle running gags, Rosemarie tries to break through William’s reserve, prodding him to reveal a kind of magical thinking usually found in children.
Ruell likes his enigmas. We never find out who William works for, and the only clue as to why he became reclusive is deliberately cryptic. The title is also something of a mystery, although its meaning probably is tied in with the — what else? — enigmatic final shot. Whereas this kind of evasiveness can often be infuriating, Ruell turns his movie’s mysteries into a game that we’re playing along with the characters. We unravel William in step with Rosemarie.
Packing a surprising amount of heart into its brisk 15 minutes, Everything’s Gone Green displays a winning blend of whimsy and evocative metaphor; it works as a face-value romantic lark and as a larger story about how easy it is to withdraw from the human community.
The picture clicks on just about every level, from the elegant photography to the engaging performances. Sure, it would be easy to nit-pick about obvious things — we never learn what attracted Rosemarie to William in the first place; the movie has a tame, kindly tone that prevents it from digging too deep — but those are just quibbles. Everything’s Gone Green is a charmer that succeeds on its own terms, and it also announces Ruell as a bright new voice on the indie scene.