Director: Alexander Poe (‘Please Forget I Exist’)
Facing the uncertainties of trying to transition in adulthood, especially when figuring out what career to pursue and how to keep romantic relationships alive, is a challenge for many young adults. The struggles of trying to get through to the next stage in adulthood is ambitiously and realistically showcased in the new independent romance comedy-drama ‘Ex-Girlfriends.’ Set to be released on VOD and iTunes tomorrow and in select theaters on Wednesday, the feature film directorial debut from writer-director Alexander Poe is a memorable take on what young adults will do when their professional and personal lives are not going according to plan.
‘Ex-Girlfriends’ follows Graham (played by Poe), a writer who is disheartened by his latest break-up, and his attempts to rekindle the spark with one of his ex-girlfriends, Laura (portrayed by Kristen Connolly). While reconnecting with Laura and trying to win her back, Graham discovers that she’s dating Tom (played by Noah Bean), who’s also in a relationship with another one of his ex-girlfriends, Kate (portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter). Graham and Kate, who are still friends, team up to split Laura and Tom up, and end up discovering aspects about themselves along the way.
Being a first-time feature film writer-director who was looking to make his movie debut right away after graduating from from Columbia University‘s Graduate Film program, Poe expertly embraced the challenges of having an ultra-low budget. Instead of waiting several years to raise more money and sacrifice his vision of showing the characters’ uncertainly of fully embracing new work ventures and relationships in their 20′s, the filmmaker used his Columbia and New York City contacts to his advantage. From filming key scenes of Graham trying to overcome his latest relationship and him plotting with Kate to win Laura and Tom back in Poe’s actual fifth-floor walk-up apartment to shooting an emotional scene between Graham and Kate in Grand Central station, all without permits, the director bravely showed the authentic feeling of trying to move past relationships, even if its emotionally hard to do.
The intimate, personal moments between Graham and Kate were enhanced by the communal feelings the helmer captured in the local bars and restaurants in New York City’s West Village, as the owners granted Poe access to film in their establishments. As opposed to the locations where Poe wasn’t given access to film and had to hurry through shots, such as Grand Central, the director fully captured the characters’ varying thoughts and emotions in the bars and restaurants. The dark furniture in the cafe where Graham breaks up with his latest girl-friend reflects his somber mood over the loss of yet another relationship, while the small, intimate setting of the coffee shop where he first reconnects with Laura showcases his desire to rekindle their relationship. When Graham takes Laura out to a bar with his friends that night, their carefree partying in the dark atmosphere mirrors his willingness to let his guard down around her. Meanwhile, when Graham later meets Kate in a more deserted bar during the middle of the day, as they ponder all of their past relationships, the sunlight shining on them through the window emphasizes them waking up to their mistakes in love.
The casting of Carpenter as Kate gave ‘Ex-Girlfriends’ a legitimacy to low-budget films, and the belief that well-known, respected actress can connect and embrace the realistic, relatable nature of independent movies. Connolly, who had previously worked with Poe on his first short film, ‘Please Forget I Exist,’ when they attended Middlebury College together, helped secure the ‘Dexter’ star’s casting. Connolly put Poe in touch with her manager, Michael Lazo at Untitled Entertainment, who put the director in touch with Carpenter, another one of his clients. Carpenter embraced the comedic aspects of Kate and Graham trying to win Tom and Laura back, and played the character as though she truly believed tracking the two down could lead to lead to happy relationships for her and her friend. The actress naturally played Kate as truly believing that she needs to make her relationship with Tom work, to validate that she is worthy of love and commitment from the opposite sex.
‘Ex-Girlfriends’ is a passionate look at the realistic nature of the trials and tribulations of maintaining a romantic relationship in New York City during the decade when people are trying to figure out who they really are, and what they want from life. While some filmmakers would consider having an ultra-low budget difficult, Poe fully embraced the challenges that went along with filming. From showing the complexities of the characters’ emotions and relationships in the various bars, restaurants and locations around New York City’s West Village that supported the film to expertly capturing the emotional and necessary sequences quickly at other sites without permits, Poe truly embraced and highlighted the challenges many people face as they set out to find what they want in life.
Written by: Karen Benardello