Small town waitress Alex (Aleece Jones) dreams of moving up and out. An aspiring artist too shy to share her work, she wants to make a name for herself but is stuck caring for her recently unemployed, widowed father (John Michael Herndon) while maintaining a relationship with her boyfriend Ben (Aaron Burt), who does not share the same interest in leaving town. When Chuck (Chrisopher Ivins), a former resident and professional photographer, comes to town, Alex finds a kindred spirit even as she begins to find a parallel in her life to a deceased artist, Suzanne (Marilyn Foley), whose unfinished mural on the side of a factory has long captured Alex’s interest.
If you’ve ever been a resident of a small town, and I’m willing to bet many of you have, then there’s more than a few things in Then Again in which to relate. Small towns are particularly challenging for artists interested in transcending their environments (though small towns are equally as intriguing to artists that find them as beautiful subjects), and Alex’s journey is, in its way, fairly universal. I personally know what it’s like to want to get out and do something artistic, all the while stuck in exactly what that is and what that truly means. I eventually made my way out of small town New Hampshire, but much of the confusion and false-starts are shared with those like-minded individuals that have come before me, and will come along far after.
And it is perhaps for that reason that, while I related to many a moment in Then Again, I also felt that the film, once setting up its conflicts, begins to repeat itself and drag along. While that may be realistic to life, it doesn’t always make for an entertaining film. At a certain point you know where Alex is going to get to, you just want it to happen faster.
Pacing issues aside, though, the film benefits from the strong performance by Aleece Jones. The role of Alex is a tough one to convey, as she may be the film’s hero but, in many an instance, the only way for her to truly make strides in her life is to make decisions that can be seen as selfish in their necessity. Jones walks the tightrope of remaining sympathetic and relatable even as she struggles and complains about it; it’s not as easy as you’d think it might be.
Story-wise, the film has a few narrative loops that wrap up in a bit too convenient a fashion, but it is a narrative tale and not a documentary so while it may strain believability in moments, it doesn’t make it completely unfathomable an experience. And, again, had the pacing been a bit quicker or the story a bit shorter, perhaps the number of resolutions that roll around wouldn’t have suffered as much in the wrap-up.
The journey of a small town artist is not a unique tale, but Then Again tackles it admirably, if not a bit too preciously. There’s much in this film for a struggling, or even established, artist to find comparable to in their own journeys, and that universality, coupled with the strong performance by Aleece Jones, is why the film is successful. It’s not a home run, but the film gets a runner on base.
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