Directed by: #JordanMcLaughlin
Joan (Ainsley Seiger) and Miles (Patrick Monaghan) are locked into a nothing town. A biting lack of opportunities and growth curse this place. There’s the lurking fear of never moving on and never leaving this cage of comfort. Joan and Miles face fears that many millennials do right now. Although this film could simply adopt the sunny disposition of a coming of age movie, director Jordan McLaughlin opts for a darker, weirder and altogether more refreshing tone.
Joan works at the local junkyard, yet, she’s an artist with dreams of maybe moving away from it all. Together with Miles, they present a tactile, realistic and compassionate relationship. They speak in in-jokes and with warmth and familiarity. Writers Bridget Anderson and Jordan McLaughlin have created such an engaging couple to explore the theme of being lost in your twenties. Joan and Miles do flirt with the weird brilliantly. However, idiosyncratic their behaviour, it never seems to be just a crude add on. Miles’ obsession with midnight psychics is endearing and his habit of bathing with his beanie hat on shows a quirkiness that ventures to the dark side of Wes Anderson. It isn’t just the couple that is quirky, but the whole town stinks of the weird. A fantastic green-grey glow haunts the outside shots, while indoors is tinted with the light of red and blue bulbs. This cinematography perfectly captures the unsettling feeling of living in a half-abandoned town, while still being oddly comforting to the audience. It isn’t just the cinematography which reinforces the weird. There are Burton and Lynch vibes everywhere, from the old-timey circus music to the bizarre neighbour (Metal-Head Ed, Navarre Megali) who lives next door and visits Miles for a cup of butter.
Yet this love of the weird isn’t a flamboyant parade designed to show off what the director can do. Instead, McLaughlin perfectly communicates a quarter-life crisis. The initial home videos seem to be inspired by 90s slacker movies, show that both Joan and Miles are nostalgic over their past but deeply uncertain about their present. Again, Anderson and McLaughlin’s script flourishes when Joan meets her friends at the junkyard. Everyone is stuck in this deadbeat town whether they like it or not, and everyone is struggling to stay afloat against the current of life. A friend Cliff (Cliff Owens) philosophises on how to succeed at life, but Joan is quickly informed that he’s only as lost as the rest of them.
Of course, this unsettling weird semi-horror film is the perfect vehicle to communicate the anxieties of young adults. Relatable but deeply unnerving, American Waste’s innovation, humour and connection warm the script. At the same time, Robindeep Singh’s excellent cinematography gives the film a tremendous sense of unease. It might be a wasteland out there, but at least we’re in it together.