Out of nowhere, the little gem Blue Jay has come along, and now making a top 10 list for 2016 is getting harder and harder to do. This is an extremely funny and poignant film that eagerly mixes tones, shot in silky black and white and utilizing the walking-and-talking format, essentially operating as a coyly sexy yet surprisingly sad two-hander with Mark Duplass (who also wrote the terrific script) and Sarah Paulson (fabulous, yet again). Certainly reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy but definitely its own thing, this story of two, long-ago lovebirds who randomly reconnect moves in some surprising directions, and always allows for the narrative to be born out of the characters and the generous performances from the well-matched co-stars. Duplass is one of the busiest people in Hollywood, and this film is his first production to hit Netflix streaming in a multi-film deal; I’m so excited that he’s found an outlet for his particular brand of low-key cinema because there’s been very little (if anything) that he’s been creatively involved with that I haven’t enjoyed. Blue Jay ranks up there with Cyrus as the most accomplished item on Duplass’ resume.
Directed with grace and simplicity by first-timer Alex Lehmann, Blue Jay moves through its 80 heartfelt minutes with a great sense of atmosphere and casual style; Lehmann also served as his own cinematographer and camera operator, making great use out of the chilly California mountain locations. And look out for Clu Gulager in a rather wonderful scene at a convenience store that underscores the humanity at the heart of Duplass’ tricky script. Because the film revolves around two characters, there has to be something at the center of the narrative that’s important to the both of them, and because the final act involves confessions and realizations from their past (none of which I’d spoil), all that has come before it takes on even more meaning. When they first see each other, it’s clear that there’s something unfinished between the two of them; both Duplass and Paulson do a great job conveying emotion through casual facial gestures and awkward body language. And throughout the sometimes painful and often times very funny story, there’s an eternal bond that re-emerges between the two characters, becoming nearly unbreakable, even if their futures are uncertain.