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Friday, September 28, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Apart From That" | Short takes

Challenging, but in a good way

3 stars"Apart From That," with Alice Ellingson, Kathleen McNearney, Tony Cladoosby, Kyle Conyers, Toan Le. Written and directed by Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin. 120 minutes. Not rated; contains some adult language. Grand Illusion.

"Apart From That" is a flawed yet fascinating Northwest gem, deliberately unpolished. With its loosely woven tapestry of improvisation, meandering plot lines and characters inspired by the nonprofessional actors who are playing them, it's the one-of-a-kind product of its on-the-fly mode of production. If you're receptive to its challenge, you'll find little miracles from start to finish.

Shot primarily in Skagit County on Super-16 film and dripping with local atmosphere (and precipitation), it's a love-it-or-loathe-it movie that tests your patience, violating almost every rule of technical proficiency while offering little in terms of satisfying resolution. If you don't accept that its aesthetic crudeness is precisely what co-directors Randy Walker and Jennifer Shainin intended, you'd think their frequently out-of-focus film was created by sleepwalking stoners on a weekend bender.

And yet, "Apart From That" has drawn worthy comparisons to the early films of Jim Jarmusch and John Cassavetes, and it will hook you if you let it. In three unconnected but emotionally resonant stories involving five curiously engaging characters, the film clearly aspires to a Raymond Carveresque flavor of Northwest eccentricity. We can only wonder if Carver would've preferred this over "Short Cuts."

Limited space prevents a detailed synopsis here; suffice it to say Walker and Shainin have worked wonders with their uniquely organic process, guiding their amateur cast toward indelible moments of truth, humor and revealing quirks of character.

"Apart From That" can be exasperating, but it's brimming with life in all its awkward glory.

— Jeff Shannon, Special to The Seattle Times

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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