Second-Story Man follows a small-time criminal named Arthur (Domig) as his mind begins to slip after a robbery gone wrong. His partner Monique (Evering) is gunned down, leaving Arthur to care for her seven year old daughter, Maria (Crystal). He and Maria move into the apartment just below the security guard who fired the shot and thus begins the film’s overlong and underwhelming trek towards a dénouement.
Director Neal Dhand’s debut feature has been successfully navigating the festival circuit – playing everywhere from San Jose to Shanghai. It features strong performances from a number of its cast members. Cinematographer Chase Bowman’s work here is exquisite and lends itself to SSM’s handsome aesthetic. And the clean sound boasts a professionalism that’s difficult to find in most small budget films.
It’s apparent that a lot of care and effort went into this production and the result is a quiet, intriguing film that takes itself seriously—and asks the same from its viewers. But while the technical achievements are noteworthy, the missteps in writing and editing are just as important to mention.
In short, the film is too long. With a running time of ninety-nine minutes, the overextended narrative suffers from a number of drawn out, ineffective scenes which damper the successfulness of those that do work. It’s tempting to say that the plot could have been better served in a short film but that would cheat the viewer out of the film’s numerous positive attributes.
As mentioned above, the cinematography and sound editing are crisp and captivating but the haunting score, headed up by Eric Zabriskie, might be the film’s most poignant component. There’s quite a lot to see and hear in Second-Story Man and while the plot might take the back seat to style and ambiance, it’s still worth the watch—especially throughout the tense and compelling third act.
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