Before We Vanish by Lawrence Garcia Film

Person to Person | Dustin Guy Defa

July 28, 2017

Many ND/NF entries have demonstrated an admirable scale in their ambitions, but few have had the confidence to do so as unassumingly as Dustin Guy Defa’s pleasantly low-key Person to Person. This feature expansion of short by the same name, true to its title, tracks the sprawling, loosely connected misadventures of its varied cast across New York City. Two reporters investigate a suicide or possible homicide; a zealous LP collector looks to obtain a rare Charlie Bird LP; and a girl argues with her girlfriend about the new boyfriend she’s been seeing.

Sharply observational and lightly comic, Defa’s is the kind of film that’s bound to be overshadowed at a larger festival, since its subtle pleasures often threaten to shade into inconsequential. Granted, it doesn’t ride the line of purposeful awkwardness as adroitly as it needs to, sometimes coming across as labored or amateurish. But Defa demonstrates genuine promise, both in his rhythm (an extended, placid chase scene is a highlight), and in the way he draws light, gossamer threads between the micro-stories, allowing their thematic heft to emerge naturally. By the end, a lingering sense of sadness permeates; the various characters are stuck in the familiar, unsure of exactly how to proceed. If there’s one thing certain, it’s that, with Person to Person, Defa marks himself as a talent to watch.

Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2017 | Dispatch 2.