Expiration is a very original movie. It follows the loosly intertwined experiences of a handful of disparate characters, over the course of one night in Montreal. During this short time, pasts are reflected upon, futures are contemplated, and life-altering choices are made. The stories it tells are heartfelt and thought provoking, as well as almost hypnotically entertaining. For comparison, Expiration shares a few plot aspects with Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, and reminds me a bit of Martin Scorsese's After Hours. However, though it is full of intriguing ideas, it never buckles under its own dramatic weight. I won't reveal more about the plot, since to do so would spoil some of the film's emotional impact and charm. You'll just have to experience it for yourself and thank me later.
Expiration is the brainchild of Gavin Heffernan. It is Heffernan's feature debut, in more ways than one, but you would never guess that from the results. Heffernan wrote, directed, edited, and co-starred in the movie. Ambitious, to be sure, but then, most filmmakers are ambitious by nature. What Heffernan adds to the equation is an abundance of talent. There is an accessible frankness in the writing and tone of Expiration that reminds me of works by Cameron Crowe, especially Say Anything and Almost Famous. But, is Heffernan a screenwriter who can direct and act, an actor who can write and direct, or a director who can act and write? Regardless of the answer, the journey his filmmaking career will take in the coming years is sure to be interesting!
Another thing you would never guess about this independent gem is that it was shot entirely on digital. Okay, I can guess what half of you out there are thinking. And, I suppose I can guess what the other half are thinking as well. It's no mystery that cinema's newest oxymoron, 'digital filmmaking', has its fans and detractors, all of whom are passionate in their feelings toward the technological advancement of the medium. It's also interesting to note that many of the same arguments over 'digital' were also used for and against 'talkies' and 'Technicolor'. In fact, the digital learning-curve has been noticeably difficult for many established filmmakers to overcome. Until recently, it has only shown its cost-saving conveniences, without revealing much in the way of artistic merit. In sharp contrast, appropriately enough, Heffernan's work on Expiration demonstrates the true potential of digital filmmaking. He has clearly invested the time required to learn how to use these powerful new tools, and use them well. As a result, the overall look of Expiration is quite impressive, rivaling that of many traditionally filmed Hollywood productions.
Usually in a review, I'll single out a couple acting performances that I consider to be 'standouts'. This movie includes at least six performances worthy of that honor. Since this completely negates the term 'standout', I'll just say that Expiration features some of the best principle and ensemble performances of any movie this year, independent or otherwise.
My only major criticism about Expiration is that any one of its storylines could have conceivably been fleshed out to create an entire film. However, the fact that they all work together relatively successfully in the same film is yet another testament to the considerable skills of everyone involved in the production. Chalk up another point for ambition!
So, to sum up, keep your eye on Gavin Heffernan and the entire cast of this wonderful movie, keep your mind open to digital, and continue to seek out and support independent films. Just think, by seeing Expiration, you can do all of these things at the same time!