Only 24 years old and just out of film school, writer-director David Gordon Green has produced a remarkable debut in George Washington.
Following its premiere at last year's Berlin Film Festival, the film he described as having "no stars, no concept and no reputation" has already won a ton of prizes and great acclaim on the festival circuit.
But this isn't just more arthouse-by-numbers. In an age when low-budgeters are typically shot on digital or video, Green defies convention by spending much of his moolah on the photography, obviously determined to get the look of the movie just right. Clearly influenced by Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Thin Red Line) George Washington's `Scope photography captures the heat and humidity of a North Carolina summer. The soundtrack, meanwhile, subtly underpins without ever intruding.
Of course, Green could be accused of valuing the look of the film over the plot (which does, admittedly, drag in places), but with his ability to perfectly sum up the emotion of a scene in one simple shot, this is an advantage rather than a drawback. Plus, thankfully, it's about far more than just atmosphere. Like the output of US indie giants Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley and the Coen brothers, George Washington boasts some quirky and genuinely funny dialogue, while its well-defined characters always stay true to life. The cast of young, non-professional actors were encouraged to improvise wherever possible, and the resulting performances are honest, unforced and uniformly excellent.
But it's Green himself who should really be congratulated. Somehow managing to make his debut greater than the sum of its parts, he's created a poetic vision that's utterly beguiling.
Though a slow film, George Washington's blending of gorgeous visuals, lush score and flawless acting result in a mesmerising film. A highly impressive first effort, it marks David Gordon Green out as one of the most exciting new directors of recent years.