Megan Griffiths' THE OFF HOURS

THE OFF HOURS, which premiered in January in the Sundance NEXT category, blew through my town this week and I was happy to have the chance to see it. Meticulously crafted, the film simply felt to me like years and years of work, as in, “This filmmaker has seen these shots in her head for some time now!” Turns out, that’s close to true. Another product of the “I almost made this movie 1,000 times with ‘name’ actors and a budget” syndrome, Seattleite Megan Griffiths bit the bullet last year and made her film the good ol’ microbudget way. I can sympathize, as I was on the same path last summer, buying batteries in bulk and making props in my living room. Griffiths’ film has a solid polish that belies any major funding deficits, and the performances are subtle and sophisticated.

Set primarily in a Hopper-esque diner in the Pacific Northwest, we spend most of the film’s 93 minutes with Francine (Amy Seimetz), a waitress who has been pouring coffee and slogging pancakes there for almost a decade. Nope, she’s not 50 – she’s more like 28 or 29, and her lack of desire to leave is more than a little heartbreaking. She’s surviving, and that survival means finding fulfillment in the arms of random men, anyone who is willing to give her some short-term attention. This is all well and good until two complicating factors intersect: she actually falls for someone, a hunky, literature-loving trucker (Ross Partridge), and she learns that her foster brother, with whom she is sharing a house, has the hots for her.

THE OFF HOURS stars ‘mumblecore’ actors but engages characters and themes far beyond white, artistic twenty-somethings and their lives and loves. Griffiths’ characters are truly suffering from very real problems, expressed here organically and without judgment. The film is currently enjoying a strong festival run and here’s to hoping it comes to a theatre near you. (Next stop, Griffiths’ own town – Seattle. See the schedule on her site here.)

Trailer here.