Sundance 2016: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's Impressive Debut 'As You Are'
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2016
As Aristotle once explained, every story is either a tragedy or a comedy. This film is a tragedy – in the true sense of that word. It's very depressing, and sad, but depressing in a good way, if that's possible to imagine. I say that because it captures some very beautiful, intimate moments of connection among friends dealing with the hardship of young life. As You Are is the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, premiering at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and it will hopefully give Miles the break he needs to make more films - because he seems to be a very talented storyteller. While it's not the best film of the fest, it does show quite a bit of potential, and it's a powerful story about love and what it makes you do.
As You Are (which I still think is an odd title for this feature) is about three friends - Jack, played by Owen Campbell, Mark, played by Charlie Heaton, and Sarah, played by Amandla Stenberg. The film is framed around police investigation interviews with most of the cast, which means there's an ominous feeling hanging over the entire film. We learn what happens as the rest of the story plays out, though part of the way through I was able to figure out exactly where it was leading. That said, it's still compelling to watch and I found myself more and more impressed with the filmmaking as it went on. Just something about it kept my attention all the way until the end and I admired the way each aspect of the story was handled with care.
Similar to another worthwhile film at Sundance titled First Girl I Loved, this film actually deals with a love triangle. Without giving away too much, there is a subtle romance that builds between Mark and Jack, who are both still very closeted and seemingly unsure about their sexuality, which is why Sarah gets in the mix. Of course, when one guy is more sure about his sexuality than the other, it creates some tensions that build and play out with teenage antics and sexual exploration. The film is set in a small town in the 1990s, and it feels very intimate. The performances from all three are completely convincing, and their feelings they have for each other are represented stunningly in the film. There are some moments that are almost tangible.
As I've mentioned already, As You Are ends up being so depressing by the end that it's not the most effective at getting its message across. However, the more I think about it, the more it grows on me, especially considering how many nuanced themes there are hidden in the film. Not only does it deal with a coming-of-age story and how much it sucks to be a teenager, but it deals with sexuality and relationships, it touches upon gun violence, it addresses oppression and acceptance, and so much more. More than anything, it has put director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and actor Owen Campbell on my radar - both are stand outs. And this is just the beginning of Joris-Peyrafitte's sure-to-be-impressive filmmaking career. I will be following closely.
Alex's Sundance 2016 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing