When a film at a festival is labled "experimental," you're never quite sure what you're going to get. You might sit through 90 minutes of wild visuals, or you might get two hours of people sitting at a table having a conversation; it might be an intolerable waste of time -- but then again, you might just stumble upon something really cool. While I don't tend to fill my fest viewing schedule with experimental film, I always try to catch at least a couple of movies so-labeled. Apart From That, the first feature effort by Mount Vernon, Washington directing duo Jennifer Shainin and Randy Walker, was listed under the "experimental" category, and had I not happened to meet the filmmakers and heard them talking about it, I might not have added it to my schedule. But I did meet them, and we did talk, and I was intrigued, and -- most fortunately -- I enjoyed the film and am therefore grateful to the serendipitous forces of the film gods that led me to see it.
Apart From That opens at a party, where the camera moves through the crowd, giving us little snippets of conversation and glimpses of characters. Then the film splits off to follow three different stories connected by the narrowest of threads on the surface. In that sense, the movie is built around kind of an anti-structure; whereas we are more used to indie films that take what appear to be divergent pieces and then tie them together in some clever (or cloying) way, Apart From That simply unravels the threads of the party, letting us follow the three stories without worrying about being ever-so-smart or cute or giving us a nifty surprise twist at the end. It's kind of refreshing, and a lot like life. After all, if you went to a party, you wouldn't expect that everyone there would have connections to each other, which is why in films, that whole "and here's where we tie it all together" routine often feels a little forced. That's not to say the film lacks a theme. On the contrary, the lack of a forced effort to interweave the stories serves to better keep the focus on what lies beneath: The commonality among all these divergent people is their loneliness and desire to be loved, liked, appreciated, and needed.