2021 film fest season is underway, and with it comes a whole bunch of movies reckoning with last year’s lockdown and the still ongoing global pandemic. It’s hard to say what the value of these films will be in hindsight, hyper-topicality capable of being either a great source of inspiration or a confounding element, though it has at least been consistently interesting to see how this moment has gotten filmmakers to reconsider the tools of their medium. as of yet is one such lockdown film, and it follows Twitter personality/comedian/former child actor Taylor Garron as she navigates the early days of the COVID pandemic from her Brooklyn apartment as her roommate situation deteriorates and a new romance is developing. Garron also wrote, co-produced, and co-directed (with Chanel James) as of yet, and has made the appealing choice of telling the story primarily through FaceTime calls and video diaries (there are a couple quick scenes that break into traditional cinematography); an apt, realistic choice given the film’s setting/context, and a freeing storytelling device that allows the script to introduce characters and exposition without a lot of pretense.
On screen, Garron plays Naomi Parsons, though the difference between actor and character seems to begin and end with the name change, as of yet’s screenplay borrowing details of Garron’s actual life for Naomi’s backstory (written as a black woman raised in the very white college town of Amherst, MA), and goes so far as to cast her real-life parents as her character’s parents (they even share the same iconic Twitter avi). Needless to say, as of yet was very consciously conceived as a vehicle to show off its star’s talents, especially the video diary moments in the way they recreate the front-facing camera sketch aesthetic popular in the Twitter comedy milieu and approximate the fourth-wall-breaking confessional style of, say, a half-hour, pay-cable comedy program. Sadly, the film is not the most ingenious realization of this sort of formal approach (devotees of Screenlife should adjust their expectations), but it’s always not entirely invalid, and is helped along by the fact that Garron is charismatic and lively as a performer, her presence never deflating or grating over the course of the film’s 81 minutes.
The plot has its moments of inspiration too, taking on the under-discussed “friend breakup,” with as of yet’s primary arc tracing out Naomi’s emotional journey to the realization that it’s time for her to part ways with long-time toxic (white) friend and roommate Sarah — the film opens with her bemoaning the then on-going George Floyd protests. A selection of friends (fellow Twitter comedians Quinta Brunson and Ayo Edebiri, providing funny voices of reason) and family pop up to offer advice and tough love — all pleasant, amusing exchanges, though none so specifically written that one stands above the others. In general, Garron’s writing is a little thin, indulging a few too many sitcom-isms when it comes to plot machinations and romance, falling into that classic North American film fest comedy gray area (is it a TV pilot or a film?) Indeed, the film’s greatest offense is wispiness, though it almost manages to cancel it out with weightier (less-depicted) moments of dispute between Naomi and Sarah (these are also the best-acted scenes). Ultimately, as of yet never quite figures out how to say all that it wants to say without forsaking nuance or elegance, but there’s enough here that one might be inclined to wait and see Garron’s vision once she incorporates those missing elements into her repertoire.
Published as part of Tribeca Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 2.