As always, I must admit to any prior misgivings I had about a film before viewing it as proper warning to any ridiculously subjective reviews I might write. And after I read the brief synopsis of Next Time I was certain I’d be writing the preceding words just before spilling copious amounts of criticism onto the page. Let’s be honest: A 19 year-old white kid moves to LA and meets a 39 year-old black woman in a laundromat where they develop a friendship just before the LA riots of 1992. Dubious. However, I stand corrected. Cheers Alan Fraser, this film was excellent.
Next Time perhaps attempts to explain 1990’s race relations in LA (that insidious microcosm of America) as My Beautiful Laundrette attempted to explain race, sexuality and myopic ignorance in 1980’s London. It does a superb job as well, and not even the allegories made between mixing colored and white clothes in the wash can make this film trite.
There is the occasional preaching about getting beyond “This race thing” but Fraser is able to make his commentary part of his characters rather than vice-versa, which is where so many other films about race fall short. And of course-in keeping with the message of the film-explorations into race aside, the film is simply an excellent picture on relationships.
The two characters meet when the kid, Matt, asks for advice on laundry time and again, and persists in trying to strike up conversation with the older woman, Evelyn. Matt literally wound up living in Evelyn’s neighborhood after stepping off a bus from Ohio. Ostensibly, he is there to develop as an artist, but we later find out that he has followed his ex-girlfriend out in hopes of winning her back, although he can’t rouse himself to even speak to her.
Evelyn is simply living her life day-to-day, and refuses to adhere to convention. She’s single, and scarcely interested in bachelors her friend insists on setting her up with. She prefers to do her laundry with Matt on Saturday nights in lieu of parties and social interaction.
Their relationship is solidified when Evelyn stands beside him during their first confrontation in the laundry-mat, and Matt even thinks he has deeper feelings for her. Luckily we’re not dragged through a romance, for once Matt voices his feelings, he and Evelyn truly do remove beyond race, and each confide their loneliness to one another ,though she never lets it go any further.
Most of the film is shot inside the laundry mat, and in an era where Indie films seem to be competing in an unspoken contest over who can have the most pointless camera movements, Fraser’s rather static camera is refreshing. He is comfortable with his characters, and bold enough to let them dictate any camera movement.
Though the two confront race relations between one another and between others who enter the laundry mat, their relationship apart from the rest of the world is what shines through. The only weak part of this film is its ending, when both Matt and Evelyn are at their respective homes watching the LA riots on TV. Fraser’s point was made, and he certainly didn’t need so obvious a tie-in. This minimally scathes the film’s entirety, though. Fraser has touched a social nerve without trying to through his film into spasms. Often the subtlest of comments are the most poignant.