Princeton Holt’s The 10 Commandments of Chloe plays out almost like a dream. Musician Chloe (Naama Kates) arrives in Nashville and begins the arduous task of finding a venue willing to give her a spot to perform. Along the way she meets Brandon (Jason Burkey), and the two strike up a friendship that may or may not be something more.
And, roughly, that’s the film. There’s a real naturalistic vibe to the camerawork, that floating style where we feel less like we’re watching a movie and more like we’re just omnisciently following the lives of our characters. What happens in the film isn’t overly dramatic, no huge tragedies befall Chloe or Brandon, the film just navigates their experience.
Which is a vibe that isn’t for everyone. I could see someone seeing this and thinking it’s a film where nothing happens. Well, things happen, and there is a progression made from opening to closing, but it’s more true to the way life works. Which is, we might have small evolutions, or small successes and failures, but it’s not always a resounding arc of character growth where Event A sets off Event and Catharsis B.
But that means you need to really connect with the characters, and I do think that is more challenging than the film’s more relaxed narrative. Mainly because the Chloe character, wonderfully portrayed by co-writer Naama Kates, is guarded to an extent that you never really know what’s going on with her. Is she a serious musician, is she interested in Brandon, is she just up for getting drunk and hanging out… she runs a lot of different ways. Which is something that plays out as much in the story as it does for the audience’s engagement, as Brandon is having the same difficulty figuring her out.
Oddly enough, though, when it comes to a dramatic head for Brandon, it is easily the one moment where the film suddenly feels less true and natural. Like this was the moment that the filmmakers decided was time to impose a narrative will on an experience that otherwise felt realistic, if not somewhat meandering. The intrusion of drama is as unwelcome for the audience as it is for Brandon and Chloe’s “relationship.”
Overall, The 10 Commandments of Chloe is a vibe-piece that, if you relax and just go with it, can be a mostly rewarding experience. It’s not going to be for the impatient, and you’ll probably know right off the bat whether this is a film for you. If you do find yourself a little bit intrigued, however, I think it’s worth a look.
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