Fourteen (2019) **** Berlinale 2019 | Forum

February 8th, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Dan Salitt Dir:Tallie Medel, Norma Kuhling, Lorelei Romani, Mason Wells, Dylan McCormick USA 2019 | 94’

Mara and Jo go back a long way. They were at school and together and now meet up regularly in Brooklyn where live a  precarious urban existence much as any young women in their twenties, Jo more so than Mara. Boyfriends drift in and out of the picture and their sexual lives are gracefully hinted at with some glowing bedside vignettes. 

Dan Salitt’s thoughtful and accomplished character is compulsively watchable well written and elegantly framed with a meditative quality that pays tribute to its slow-emerging subject matter: Jo deteriorating state of mind. Norma Kuhling’s tour de force as this fragile, fractious young soul is one of the more nuanced and engaging performance of the year so far, She combines the poise, elegance and authority of a modern day Marlene Dietrich,  capturing the wit of Dorothy Parker in some her choice lines. And we don’t take on board her crumbling state of mind until the film is well into its second half, where the tonal darkens, denting avoiding histrionics apart from one remarkable scene where Jo gradually dissolves into a well of desperation. And we feel for her as her sate of mind implodes. Tallie Medel (Mara) is a fine counterbalance in this richly satisfying portrait of modern womanhood. Her job as a junior school teacher allows her to demonstrate her gentle kindness tempered with integrity. She tries to be there for Jo. Their friendship is a wonderful thing that avoids sentimentality or seething outbursts, drawing gracefully and poignantly on the nature of friendship that will be familiar with all of us in our in our relationships, particularly female ones. .  

There are long resplendent frames where Salitt delicately lingers on a landscape sketching out the slowly unveiling plot line – such as the once the at the station where Mara arrives to visit Jo and her family after a difficult time for them both. Comparatively compact but redolent in thought and detail this is an impressive fourth feature for Salitt (All the Ships at Sea). But it’s the performances that resonate and will stay with you for a long time after the curtain falls. MT


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