“Kate Can’t Swim” a feature film at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, is co-written by Josh Helman and Jennifer Allcott. Helman also directs and stars alongside Allcott, Celeste Arias, and Grayson DeJesus. This first-time director and writing pair gives us a striking, complex and provocative film that brings relationships and sexuality issues into clear and sometimes harsh view.
Kate (Arias) and Pete (DeJesus) seem the happy, young couple, living the life in NYC. When Kate’s best friend from childhood, Em (Allcott) returns from living abroad with her new beau by her side, Kate finds extreme difficulty in accepting Em’s very different choice. Nick (Helman) is an extremely successful photographer, but Kate also questions him about his subject choices and moral boundaries. In an effort to get to know one another better, Nick and Em invite Kate and Pete to a remote lake house in Upstate New York. This peaceful backdrop promotes anything but peace amoung the group, giving way to a dramatic weekend for everyone.
“Kate Can’t Swim” is a visually striking film that cinematically captures the atmosphere even when the story and the environment are in complete opposition. Cinematographer Tommy Agriodimas brings you into the cabin, making you the 5th guest. You witness the unraveling, the questioning, and the evisceration of emotions. Helman and Allcott’s script is succinct with tight dialogue and pacing that runs parallel to the emotion of the scene. And the dialogue is simply daring and bold, yet still maintaining a sense of reality.
The story tackles the concept of love, sexuality, fear of the future, relationships of many types, and expectations within our society as well as within ourselves which sounds like a lot, but it is never overwhelming. With the story-line focused upon Kate, the supporting cast adds their story, augmenting the main focus beautifully.
This is a phenomenal ensemble cast. There is a natural chemistry between not only the two couples, but between Arias and Allcott. Their gestures and unforced laughter creates a feeling of truly having grown up together. Arias has a standout performance, skillfully portraying a very complicated character. While we may not always agree with her decisions, we understand them as we observe them and feel her pain and internal conflict. Her character development, a testament not only to the writing and directing, but to Arias’ skills, unfolds beautifully. Helman finds a way to express such subtle nuances in his performance, creating a very intimidating person in one moment, and in the next a very insightful and caring one. It is this subtly in each actor that brings a level of genuiness to the entire story. This cohesive group could easily be any one of us in our 20’s or 30’s.
“Kate Can’t Swim” is a standout film this year. With skillful direction, creatively honed writing, beautiful cinematography, and an amazing cast, the film is one not to be missed.
Check out the interview I had with Josh and Jennifer RIGHT HERE
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