As with any other global event, COVID will become a contextual milestone for the arts. As a narrative abbreviation for cinema, it has great potential. However, it remains to be seen whether the audience is ready to recall a pandemic that is not yet fully behind it. “For now“Tests these waters with admirable boldness, using quarantine cabin fever, zoom happy hours and socially distant dating to tell an old story in new ways.
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Put together through video confession, FaceTime calls, and a handful of traditionally filmed scenes, As of Yet follows a few days in the life of a late 20s New Yorker named Naomi (Taylor Garron) approaching the end of their third month due to COVID-19 restrictions. Naomi’s roommate Sara (Eva Viktor), fled to Florida with her family at the beginning of the pandemic. While the couple still has FaceTime on a regular basis, the rifts in the relationship have widened. This is not least due to Naomi’s burgeoning romance with an online gentleman caller named Reed (Amir Khan), which threatens Sara’s monopoly on Naomi’s attention.
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Details about Naomi’s life come through multiple back-to-back FaceTime calls, including one with her parents, a cousin in England, and two old friends in LA. She is collecting unemployment, is involved in the BLM protests and has had problems with Sara before, but otherwise seems like a smart, cheeky, charming and serene woman overwhelmed by COVID tension and fatigue. However, this is not a film about the pandemic per se, but about a specific moment in a person’s life when they are forced to face an abyss between different stages of adulthood.
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Naomi is at a crossroads within a country that is itself at a turning point. Between COVID, the protests over the George Floyd assassination, and the presidential election in the summer of 2020, America was like an unmanned fire station blasting water at full speed: no one knew exactly where it would land when the pressure eased. As Naomi struggles to reconcile her long-standing friendship with Sara against this woman’s baffling two-sided isms and blocking hypocrisy, she really reconsiders where she is, given that the clock is in her 20s (and in the middle in too short a global moment of life).
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Garron, who collaborated with. turned Chanel JamesIt carries all of this emotional weight well through the film’s dashing 81-minute runtime. At the end of the first wave of COVID, Garron’s nervous, caged energy pulses through the screen for over 80 days in relative isolation. It’s a reminder of a time when zoom hangouts were the height of personal connection. It’s amazingly real, and while the As of Yet iPhone screen structure reinforces this, it inevitably hinders it too.
If there’s something on the news all the time, there isn’t much of an appetite for it on the big screen (ask any producers who made Vietnam and Iraq films when those wars were raging). There comes a time when audiences are ready to look back on a shared tragedy and show their compassion, but for a country still struggling with COVID, albeit at far fewer numbers than a year ago, it could appear too much too soon. Additionally, by June 2021, most people are fed up with secluded wine nights and FaceTime conversations, which leads to some boring sections in a movie they define.
It’s like waiting the afternoon at the DMV and then going home to see a show about the lady who does the driving tests. Of course, the mileage of this discomfort will vary from person to person, and it doesn’t detract from the delicious COVID-specific drama that frames much of the narrative, with Sara Naomi for the date of the latter when Sara’s Instagram stories have them in bars shown … in Florida. Their interaction, along with that between Naomi and her L.A. friends (Ayo Edebiri and Quintana Brunson), encourages greater effort and gives the whole thing an authentic, lived texture that expands the scope beyond COVID.
Yet for a film so rooted in a period, it strangely saves on the spot and leaves out any real discussion about Naomi’s neighborhood (or any introductory footage of her apartment layout). Sometimes Naomi appears to be locked in a studio while other wider, non-FaceTime shots place her against large, blank walls where it almost looks like she’s in a loft. It’s a bit of a quirk, likely due to the guerrilla nature of the film’s shooting, which should be credited for navigating the coronavirus nimbly in a lemonade-of-lemon scenario. For those looking to take a temporary visit into the summer of 2020, the chaotic firefighter energy of the moment may still be a little too powerful. Still, exploring a turning point in young adulthood should remain evergreen. [B]
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