Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Directed by: #MichaelCuenca
I’ll Be Around is the third feature from director Michael Cuenca. The film follows several characters over one day as they prepare for the start of a local music festival in Petropolis. With this backdrop, Cuenca, who also stars in and has co-written the film, delivers a wonderfully shot and stylistically engaging movie that doesn’t quite have the legs to maintain its early promise.
Rather than sticking to one clear narrative, the film instead jumps between the interconnected lives of festival attendees, most of whom each have their own arcs. All of the characters are well written in the sense that they have snappy, naturalistic dialogue that gives them a unique feel. A lot of their stories revolve around relationships, but each scenario feels different enough to avoid the film getting repetitive.
There are a couple of characters who are particularly investing and stand out from the rest. Sarah Lawrence’s weary rock star Eve Valentine is one of the more complex figures in the film, while Brendan Takash’s hopeless romantic Kip offers up both comedic and heartfelt moments. The sheer number of characters and how different they all feel from one another is impressive from a writing standpoint, and all are brought to life by charismatic performances.
However, most storylines are given an equal amount of screen time, including those that are far less engaging. Narratives following a trio of enthusiastic teens and a pair of home invaders are just two examples of underdeveloped plots that serve no overarching purpose and grind the pacing to a halt. Unfortunately, sometime after the halfway mark, even the more interesting plot threads fizzle out, with most ending in a lacklustre fashion. The film definitely would have benefited from cutting some narratives entirely, as it feels like a drag to get to the 2-hour mark.
One charming aspect of I’ll Be Around that remains consistent is the stylistic choices implemented by Cuenca. The film has brightly coloured title cards inserted throughout, a short intermission that takes a break from the narrative, and a few small musical moments that work thematically with the story. From the structure to the style, Cuenca has a refreshing vision that is clear to see and has been well implemented into all aspects of the film.
The direction too is solid, with Cuenca capturing the spirit of small-time festivals. The intimate camera movements put us front and centre with the characters, while conversational scenes, which make up most the film, are never visually stale. There are even a few experimental sequences, involving stoners, that are executed well and don’t feel jarring. Jessica Gallant’s excellent cinematography should also be noted, as she uses dim indoor lighting to create some warm, colourful shots.
If you’re looking for a solid drama-comedy with a musical heart, then I’ll Be Around is the film for you. It’s light-hearted tone, colourful stylistic choices, and varied cast of characters, keep it engaging for the most part. However, poor pacing for the final hour and a focus on throwaway storylines means that the film does overstay its welcome, and culminates in a somewhat inconsequential finale.