By Jette Kernion (original publication: 3/12/08 -- SXSW Film Festival)
There's always one film at SXSW where I walk in completely cold, knowing nothing except that it fit the right timeslot for me, or that another festivalgoer strongly recommended it. Former Cinematical editor Karina Longworth urged me to see Medicine for Melancholy but didn't say much about why ... and the only other thing I knew was that it was a narrative feature, because I felt like I'd seen too many documentaries so far and needed some balance. Karina must not have been the only one at SXSW recommending the film, because the Alamo Ritz was full at the screening I attended.
Medicine for Melancholy turned out to be a lovely, sweet film, which reminded me in some ways of Aaron Katz's film Quiet City (my DVD review is here). Again, we follow two characters as they explore a city in fairly ordinary ways, while at the same time suspense lingers about their relationship. Both films also use the arts -- art galleries or museums, and music -- to enhance their character studies and their look at city life. However, in this first feature from writer-director Barry Jenkins, the city is San Francisco (primarily the east side), and the characters' interaction is complicated by racial and political elements.