For one to decide to go to film school, he or she tends to possess one or more of the following qualities: Egoism, a lack of contact with reality, and no regard for the value of a dollar. David Spaltro‘s film …Around pretty much proves that this is the clientèle lured by the glittery facade of prestigious film programs on the east coast, particularly New York City, the only succubus crueler than film school itself. But let me not digress. …Around is not solely about the near futility of an education in “the arts,” but is, dare I use the odious term, a coming of age story about a Jersey boy named Doyle Simms who defies the stereotype of a film school kid by actually going through the financial struggle of staying in New York to create his film while continually amassing inspiration for it.
Doyle Simms is an undoubted antihero: Not someone you really have any reason to hate, but someone you know doesn’t seem to fit into the pre-made likable characteristic mold. Filmmaker David Spalto defends Doyle’s seeming aloofness and disinterest in cultivating any real attachments. Spaltro states:
I think Doyle comes from a world where the idea of ‘home’ is so skewed or non-present that it’s almost an easy decision to become a bit of a gypsy. It’s a lot easier to pour yourself into work and art and passion when you’ve got no place and no one to go to.
That being said, Doyle is given a more overt opportunity to reinvent himself than the majority of other freshly matriculated students. Initially, it appears as though Doyle will manipulate this chance to his advantage, but a lack of familial support, both emotionally and financially, causes Doyle to end up spending all of his outside of school moments at Penn Station, killing time with the other homeless miscreants that populate the unseen pockets of New York’s transportation system.
In the midst of the chaos that is his life, Doyle has a somewhat risque meet-cute, with a girl named Allyson, after pretending to be an art student in the drawing class she poses nude for. After getting over her disgust at his foray into perversion, Allyson accepts the drawing (just of her face of course) Doyle offers her at the end of the class. Obviously smitten, Doyle tries to ask her out before she disappears to her next work gig, but to no avail. She is too caught up in getting to the next moneymaking aspect of her day (which I was disappointed did not include hooking).
The prolonged encounter with Allyson causes Doyle to be late to his financial aid meeting, where he is met with an already naturally surly counselor who informs him that, because of his application’s tardiness, he is ineligible for any aid. Thus, the spiral into crippling poverty continues. That is, until he discovers the facility with which one can procure a multitude of credit cards (this is pre-recession mind you).
At last, Doyle is able to afford a residence of his own, and yet, inevitably, the dissatisfaction he felt before does not melt away. Even though he has Allyson and the prospect of a film career after college, Doyle is more than painfully aware that he does not have, nor has he ever, any roots. There has never been any real connection to a place or a family. His mother is almost cartoonishly villainous, his father is a virtual absentee, and his sister comes and goes from the house in Jersey City as she pleases. Save for his best friend who gets him a job on a construction site over the summer, there is essentially no one Doyle has a kindred link to.
In essence, this is the thematic element that …Around seeks to explore. Yes, you can leave a place in favor of theoretical greener pastures, but nothing will fundamentally change until you’ve connected to someone. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s plenty of film school mocking thrown in for good measure, which in and of itself is reason to obtain a copy of Spaltro’s debut.