‘Eat!’ is an Unsettling Reminder That Loneliness Breeds Desperation

By  · Published on February 24th, 2017

Short of the Day

Katherine Waterston and Brett Gelman star for writer-director Janicza Bravo.

Writer-director Janicza Bravo has a talent for turning the seemingly-mundane into something more frighteningly absurd. She doesn’t make horror films, rather slices of life that can take turns towards the horrific and which leave you more unsettled than scared, because the wickedness into which she delves is all too real, all too possible, and all too human.

Take for example her 2013 short Eat! which stars Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Alien: Covenant) as an urbanite young woman who one day accidentally locks herself out of her building and apartment, meaning she must turn to her neighbor (Brett Gelman, Married, Fleabag) to let her in and give her use of his phone to call her boyfriend. Simple scenario, right? Happens every day, right? Yep, and that’s what makes everything after the set up so effectively chilling. Right away our heroine can tell there’s something wrong, and the longer she stays, the more wrong it gets, right up to the unexpected ending.

Eat! is a wonderful slow boil, it creeps along, painstakingly unfurling its menace. The chemistry – or rather the intentional lack of it – between the actors is the short’s greatest strength, as from their richly but vaguely-defined characters they draw an truly uncomfortable and unstable atmosphere; you know the center cannot hold, that some kind of terrible collapse is imminent, you just don’t know how it’s going to happen and the resulting anticipation of this is palpable. Gelman especially brings the thunder; normally a funnyman, he demonstrates vividly the thin line between the kind of emboldened and off-putting characters he plays in comedies and the disturbed individual he is here.

If you didn’t know Bravo’s name before today you certainly won’t forget her now. Up next she’s got Lemon, her first feature which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Gelman (who wrote it with Bravo; the two are married), and a whole slew of other talented actors like Judy Greer (Married), Michael Cera (Magic Magic), Shiri Appleby (Girls), Nia Long (Love Jones), Gillian Jacobs (Love), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Martin Starr (Party Down), Megan Mullaly (Will & Grace), Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and more. So after watching and thoroughly enjoying Eat!, as I know you will, keep an ear out for details on Lemon; it next plays at this year’s SXSW festival in beautiful Austin, Texas (FSR’s hometown, don’t you know), which kicks off next month.

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