Nina Wyeth (Cassie Ann Ross) is an author on the tail-end of a book tour. As the film opens, we watch as she answers various questions during a Q&A. Right off the bat, we’re hit with an air of uncomfortable; Nina’s audience is very obviously reacting strongly to her written effort, but they all seem to read more into it, and her, than perhaps she was expecting they would.
This awkward atmosphere follows her around, as Nina returns to her hometown for another Q&A session. She checks into a hotel and begins her daily routine of going out in black jogging gear to smoke (and sweat) while she ponders her next novel. Interrupting her days is Ivan (Mark Johnson), whom she has had a physical relationship in the past, and who appears to want to continue the booty-call aspect of it even now, and Buddy (Edgar Muñiz), a runner who finds her smoking in exercise gear intriguing to the point of following her around like a lost puppy, much to her chagrin. Buddy has some intense opinions on romance, and he becomes quickly smitten with Nina, and while she doesn’t necessarily reciprocate, she does seem to find his company somewhat entertaining.
From the Heart of the Crowd is one of those movies where we get hints at what may or may not be below the surface, but we’re never given anything too explicit to work with. Just like the readers of Nina’s novel, we’re often tempted to try to explain what is going on, but also like those readers, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re right. More often, it says more about the audience than the film itself.
As the main focus, Cassie Ann Ross has to carry the load for the film, and she does a pretty wonderful job of portraying world-weary apathy without turning into Debbie Downer. Whether or not her character grows as the film goes along is up for debate; one could argue she merely flirts with the idea of change but feels that sticking with what’s she’s used to is the best policy. Which isn’t entirely unrealistic, making it all the more unsettling.
I’ve now seen two films with filmmaker Edgar Muñiz stepping from behind the camera to play a role in his film, and I have to say, of those two, he is far more tolerable here. His portrayal of Buddy is prone to annoying and fidgety mannerisms and a penchant for being far too forward for any given conversation or moment, but it works for the role. I can’t say I was rooting for him to get very far in a relationship with Nina, but I could see how her curiosity with him could get the best of her.
In the end, From the Heart of the Crowd is not a film where very much happens, but it is also not a ponderous bore where absolutely nothing happens. The film presents a moment in our heroine’s complicated life, and shows how she would or wouldn’t handle that given situation. Along the way, we get to ponder ideas such as love, rough sex and interpretation versus intention.
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