Short of the Day: Debt and Ennui in ‘Approaching a Breakthrough’

Kieran Culkin and Mae Whitman star.
By  · Published on July 21st, 2017

Kieran Culkin and Mae Whitman star.

Existential angst is a tricky thing to try and capture on film, reliant as it is on a balance of reality and fantasy, and dependent upon a strong performance that’s not too over-the-top but also not too nuanced. Fortunately, today’s short film Approaching a Breakthrough has both of these in the script and direction of Noah Pritzker and a lead performance by Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down, Scott Pilgrim vs the World).

Culkin is Norman, a prototypical young New Yorker returned to the City after time on the left coast with a pile of overdue bills as high as that of his insecurities. While taking a walk through the park with his girlfriend Claire (the always, always delightful Mae Whitman, Parenthood, Scott Pilgrim vs the World), a nonchalant argument about autonomy leads to a magically-real conversation between Norman, a pair of his past therapists, and a few other folks to whom he owns money.

The obvious parallel here is to the work of Woody Allen, especially those films with obvious artifice like Annie Hall, Mighty Aphrodite, or most particularly Deconstructing Harry, but Pritzker is no mere mimic, his story has a liveliness and a modernity that Allen couldn’t muster if he tried, not now at least, and Culkin’s performance is measured and weighted without being static or too heavy.

This is Pritzker and Culkin’s second collaboration, after Quitters, a 2015 feature (available to stream on Amazon), and it’s obvious the two have a great creative chemistry; here’s hoping we see more from them soon. Until then, enjoy Approaching a Breakthrough, which was honored with a Vimeo Staff Pick.

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