Meaningful friendships in today’s social media age have evolved and the nature of relationships are often challenged by the stretches of time found between face-to-face contact. For a 30-something group of college friends, the attempted suicide of their friend Alex brings them together after seven years of distance in About Alex.
This is a strong debut feature film for writer/director Jesse Zwick. Through conversation over a weekend at Alex’s out-of-the-way home, the group re-open wounds, relive fond memories and analyse their current relationships. Their own problems, ranging from selfish first-world issues through to serious concerns affecting many of their generation often dominate the conversations, leaving Alex to observe and absorb their stories.
The screenplay could equally be mounted as a stage play, with minimal locations and ample dialogue for the small ensemble of seven featuring Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Max Greenfield (New Girl), Nate Parker, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Max Minghella and Jane Levy.
The strength of the film lies in the evenly balanced ensemble with strong performances. Greenfield in particular shows greater depth and acting chops than perhaps seen before within the limitations of sitcoms. Every character has a texture and depth that is explored in Zwick’s realistic writing.
While the bed-hopping and drama sometimes leans towards the contrived, primarily it is the easy banter between this group of characters who have known each other for so long that rings true. Despite the years apart, there is a friendship that is lasting, brought to the fore by their concern for their troubled friend.
The couple trying to determine the value of their long relationship, the anxious career woman who still cares what her parents think, the lovesick misanthrope – each is connected and shows that it’s not always the suicidal friend who has the biggest problems.
The way in which the film deals with suicide and more importantly, how the friends deal with suicide, is well managed, yet so individual to every person.
Maintaining friendships in the online world is tough and for those of us who remember the days before Facebook and texting existed, navigating its meaning is tricky. If nothing else it makes you want to pick up the phone and call an old friend to check in.
Reviewed by Hayley Horton
Rating out of 10: 8
About Alex will be released on on DVD on 23 July 2015.