Movies: Easier with Practice ****
Kyle Patrick Alvarez's debut feature Easier with Practice is almost self-consciously alternative. With its stately pace, awkward pauses, edgy subject matter (a phone-sex romance) and moody soundtrack from hip US bands such as Grizzly Bear, it couldn't be more indie if it tried.
But for all these counterculture mannerisms, Alvarez never loses sight of his story for a second, and Easier with Practice grows from a slow start into a powerful and touching film.
Brian Geraghty is Davy Rothbart, a struggling short-story writer who's in the middle of a low-budget book tour with his brother, Sean, when they stop for the night at a lonely hotel.
Long car journeys have made relations between the brothers tense, and when Sean decides to go out for something to eat, Davy stays behind. Then the phone rings, and when he answers he's greeted by a seductive female voice.
A woman called Nicole has apparently dialled his number at random, and is in the mood for a spot of phone sex. Hesitantly, Davy agrees, and finds the experience so gratifying that he becomes hooked.
He and Nicole begin a sort of virtual relationship, but she keeps him at a distance and won't give him her number. And when Davy decides he wants to meet her, things get awkward.
Geraghty, who memorably played a terse bomb disposal expert in The Hurt Locker, does a lovely job portraying the recessive and over-analytical Davy.
The film has a lot to say about fear of intimacy, and Kyle Patrick Alvarez's script somehow manages to give Davy and Nicole's relationship a tenderness that even survives a late collision with reality.
Day & Night