What keeps this delicate film from evaporating is the complicated friendship between Chloe (Chloe Moore), 16, a new high school student, and Nicolette (Nicolette Ellis), a recent college graduate who was hired to take care of Chloe during the day her single mother is working. Nicolette studied acting and was invited to join a group of her college friends, who went to Hollywood immediately after graduating to “get it right.”
Instead, she chose to stay in her hometown and work to save money while boosting her social media image, in the hopes of becoming an Instagram “influencer” (which she says will make her more castable. when she travels to Los Angeles.). Chloe is a brooding and almost silent girl when we first meet her, quite clearly in (slight) rebellion against her mother Anne (Annie Peterson), who is so overprotective that you know she projects her own traumas on her child. before giving Nicolette. a glimpse of his mania (a great scene, superbly performed by Peterson and the Ellis the Younger). Chloe’s silent brooder routine begins to recede once she storms out of the house and enters the park across the street, only to be followed by Nicolette, who is anxious and bored but not indifferent. Nicolette seems aware that the young girl is being drawn by forces which are not entirely within her reach.
There’s a subplot involving Nicolette’s lingering crush on ex-boyfriend Alex (Jack Vicenty), the well-to-do son of a local restaurateur who’s connected to showbiz (but probably not as far as he is). appear trying to fascinate women.). The stuff involving Nicolette and Alex gets a lot of scrutiny, especially the way Alex exploits her privilege and uses people. But that comes close to derailing the film’s attention to the central friendship in the first half of the film. (It sounds like a bit of a different movie, maybe a Nicolette sequel in Hollywood.)
Luckily, the director settles in and focuses on the main duo as they prepare to embark on a 40-mile hike out to sea, following a route plotted in a drawing by Chloe (and seen in the charming credits of animated opening). Ellis and cinematographer Sean Carroll focus on characters and performances, though things visually open up once Nicolette and Chloe begin their journey (which is also a metaphor for their burgeoning independence from the expectations of others). Even without the underground theater / film tradition of giving the main characters the same first names as their actors, it would be clear from performances experienced by almost unknown strangers that this is a labor of love, built around personalities. and inclinations of the actors and crew. (“You haven’t left the house,” says Nicolette’s mother, complaining that she hasn’t found a job yet. “It’s because the Internet exists,” said Nicolette, in a tone that suggests that ‘she barely managed to keep her eyes from rolling clearly to the back of her head.)