Jess + Moss

by deerinthexenonarclights

It’s funny when you see something every day. You don’t see that it’s getting worse and it’s definitely getting worse.

This is a very slight film; to be honest, sitting here and writing this review I can barely remember half of it. if you believe the MemoryMaster tapes that are used to narrate sections of the story this may just be because the experience was so emotional, so powerful that my mind cannot bear undergo it go again, though I would argue the opposite.

Remembrance is the buzzword of this film as it plays out its simplistic non-story of two troubled teens meandering around some alternate America through the prism of memory. The film is, quite literally, a series of short impressionistic images and it’s always uncertain whether or not what you are watching is occurring in the present, future or recent past; sometimes something in the last scene seems to have triggered a call-back, some the characters recall as a method of escape and others appear as if at random. Though at one stage I wondered, ‘ perhaps this is all playing backwards ‘, the truth is that there are no ‘aha’ moments to be found in the movie, no answers; instead the experience is that of one great rhizomatic question of life and whether it’s worth the living.

Though it may well sound it this is not simply a piece of pretentious schtick; this structural choice of merging the past and present together so anarchically is essential to the films thematic resonance, given that the two characters it follows are so entirely driven by their pasts – though driven is something of a misnomer given that their lives have stalled, stuck in the murky mud of memory – but it is also how all of us experience our day to day lives, is it not?

You may notice that I have yet to mention the plot, this is because I cannot. The film is for the most part a series of simple, disconnected vignettes but through the some clever editing and the crafty utilization of repetition it does manage to tease out some story elements in a rather unique way; and their joy is in the discovering. The way that these revelations tie back into the way in which the characters have chosen to live their lives – in a constant conflict between the past and the present, the moment versus their memories – is a touching touch that really adds some much needed depth to the proceedings, but it is probably too little too late.

I have never been able to relate to the trouble teen style of storyline and so I personally found it hard to invest in these two but they are both interesting characters and their interactions are mostly enjoyable enough to watch for eighty odd minutes; I’m just after a little more than that.The way they see the world is rather fascinating though: to them other people don’t exist, their America seems almost post-apocalyptic and those few scenes set back in the ‘real world’  seem to us most like a dream. They are so disconnected from their surroundings; existentially lost not in grand questions of life and death but the mundanity of the in-between. If you liked the Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs than you will probably get a kick out of this side of the film, I however could only just accept it.

The way that director Clay Jeter tells their stories is also rather accomplished; there is the aforementioned editing – of video and sound – and a rather impressive visual style that really brings to life what is on the surface a very touching story of innocence and eternal childhood that hides a darker heart of suffering beneath. It’s slow, contemplative and shoe-gaze which are all normally con’s to my mind but it is one of the better examples of those styles. Though if you ask me It could have been a short and had much the same effect.

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