Pink Wall (2019): Review

*Warning for mild spoilers, but nothing too big*

Sometimes the simplest of premises can create the most impactful movies. Pink Wall is very simple: a series of sequences which depict moments in a relationship across several years, highlighting the good, the bad, and the in between.

Tom Cullen’s directorial debut focuses on Leon and Jenna, two people who could not be more different in their approach to life. Jenna is an assertive, intelligent cynic, while Leon is a creative, kind-hearted soul who lacks the ambition to follow his talents to greater heights.

Something I find interesting about Pink Wall is that we never really need to know how these two met. Maslany and Duplass are convincing enough with their chemistry that an established relationship feels real from the first scene. Their characters are presented immediately, if not through the dialogue then through the physical acting: their body language, expressions, reactions to each other. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Pink Wall was performed on stage at some point, given how much these characters are doing and how much the actors are giving the audience without us even realising it. Cullen does infuse it with an unmistakable cinematic quality, though, with mini-montages that act as intervals between the sequences. They’re cleverly placed, and Tom Cullen shows that he has the same intelligence as a director as he does an actor.

Speaking of actors, let’s talk about them. Jay Duplass does an excellent job as Leon. His improvisational quality imbues him with the lack of security that his character feels in his life and his relationship. He perfectly embodies that sense of self-doubt when you’re facing a person who you feel has everything perfectly laid out. The sequences being out of chronology really complements Duplass’ performance, as you get the impression that he’s stuck, you go backwards and forwards in time and yet he’s still sort of in the same place as he was the last time. It’s Jenna who seems to have changed and he’s just following along, hoping he doesn’t get left behind. Duplass gives a gorgeous, emotional performance.

Not to discredit Duplass’ wonderful work in any way, because he really is impressive, but Tatiana Maslany has to get the lion’s share of the praise here. As always, she’s electric. She gives Jenna a believability that’s necessary to root for her. On paper, she would appear standoffish and narrow, but the depth behind Maslany’s eyes shapes her into a fleshed-out character who you really start to sympathise with, even when she’s not being the greatest person, which is a testament to her performance. One thing I always notice about Tatiana Maslany is that she really seems to connect with and understand her characters in a psychological sense. She knows them inside and out, and uses that to enhance her performance. It’s a bold, committed, sturdy turn and Maslany quickly establishes herself as the most impressive part of the film.

Tom Cullen, the architect behind this piece, definitely knows his strengths and fully utilises them. He has Duplass as the quiet anchor in the background in a lot of sequences, his natural charisma elevating the tension of a scene so that when he does speak or do something, you’ve been waiting for it, and you know it’s going to change the scene. Maslany is the film’s powerhouse, the stick of dynamite that manages to both detonate and demonstrate subtlety at the same time. It’s a rare skill and it’s excellently displayed here. His work with the camera in a lot of sequences deserves some notice, as the position of the camera often says something about the relationship at play, the use of cinematic language becoming an interesting part of the film. The camera movements and use of close-up during the final sequence is breathtaking and, accompanied by the beautiful music choices, becomes one of the most well-executed parts of the film.

Running at only 85 minutes, Pink Wall has a lot to say in a short space of time. It doesn’t quite manage to capitalise on some of the points it raises within, but the relationship narrative is so impressive that it doesn’t matter what hasn’t been said. Because with Duplass and Maslany turning in perfect performances delivering such gorgeous, realistic dialogue, that’s more than enough to solidify this piece as something pretty great.

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