SXSW 2016: “Don't Think Twice,” “Operator,” “Don't Breathe”

exerpted from by Erik Childress March 18, 2016

One of the truly great and unexpected discoveries of this year's SXSW was Joey Klein's "The Other Half" [pictured above]. Tom Cullen ("Weekend," "Downton Abbey") plays Nickie, a cab driver with a short fuse still grieving over a family tragedy. He meets his opposite in Emily (Orphan Black'sTatiana Maslany), who is very up with life and makes him smile in a way that has likely been absent the past five years. The more open Emily is to this new relationship though, the more the symptoms of her bipolar disorder come to the forefront. Thinking of Emily as just another free spirit manifested to bring an emotionally-deadened male back to life is enough to give pause to this experience. Throw on top of all that the recent abundance of films involving people with Autism and those afflicted with ALS taking road trips to find romance, and Indie Movie Warning Bells are probably going off. Luckily, “The Other Half” handles its material with grace and authenticity. Klein is not interested in exploring mental illness as a cutesy crutch that needs to be overcome for a happy ending. What Emily lives with is shown as difficult, and the film never shies away from how that difficulty can affect even someone who loves her deeply. It is almost improper to suggest that the star of “Orphan Black” would be an ideal candidate to play a bipolar character, but Maslany is one of the most interesting actresses working today and she does not treat the symptomatic Emily as separate personalities but rather an individual struggling to maintain the best parts of her. Cullen is every bit her equal, projecting a screen presence that is equally confident and mysterious by using very few words to reflect his state of being. Klein has a visual language that recalls the early work of David Gordon Green (particularly his "All the Real Girls") and announces himself as a real talent to watch as he navigates what could have been stale, borderline offensive material into something memorable and heartfelt.