[Deep Focus]

Ankling for trouble.

Movie Credits:

Written and directed by Finn Taylor

Cinematography by Barry Stone

Edited by Rick LeCompte

Starring Robin Tunney and Tim Blake Nelson

USA, 2002

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Screened on DVD

Robin Tunney gets her first-ever showcase role in Cherish, a cheerfully implausible comic romance about a girl, a stalker, a midget in a wheelchair, and a very unlucky break. Tunney, who appears in substantially every scene of the film, is just wonderful, even if her performance mainly tweaks the life-damaged waif Helena Bonham Carter perfected in Fight Club. Tim Blake Nelson is the technician whose job it is to make sure Tunney's ankle bracelet keeps her under house arrest in a dingy San Francisco loft after a night on the town goes terribly wrong. (Liz Phair has a minor role as Tunney's bitchy co-worker.)

There's plot contrivance aplenty, but verisimilitude isn't the point. Rather, it's a movie about mistrust of the system, personal inertia, and the melancholy stasis of everyday life. Maybe that makes it sound too heavy - Cherish has the lightest possible touch. The wispy relationship that develops between Nelson and Tunney, who leave emotional vapor trails that twist around one another but never really intersect, is charming, and the bittersweet conclusion, which declines to follow the conventions of quirky romantic comedy, is refreshing. Even the breezy pop soundtrack, neither cloying nor condescending, is beautifully free of hipster pretensions.

I'm pretty sure I've seen director Finn Taylor's previous film, Dream With the Fishes, but I can't remember a damned thing about it. By that standard, if no other, the insinuatingly goofy Cherish is an improvement - and the performances make it better. It's a slight film, but it feels good.

DEEP FOCUS: Movie Reviews by Bryant Frazer