Breaking structure is certainly a way to get noticed on the indie film circuit; it’s not an effective approach for gaining a wide audience. Those who stand on the receiving end of a narrative want it to mean something. Sure, there is something to be said for experience and manifesting one’s own meaning, but when it comes to a film that is structured in such a way that it builds the expectation of meaning…the shock of breaking that structure results in a complete let down.
James White is a brilliant film. Christopher Abbot’s performance is so amazing that you can’t stand to look away even for a moment. Likewise, Cynthia Dixon makes her mark as a very convincing cancer patient during her last days. The direction, cinematography, and editing all work together to deliver a truly memorable experience.
So why then would you destroy all that good will by truncating the story before it ended?
The pieces were there. The Main Character Throughline clear. The Influence Character Throughline complete with its own version of the clichéd You and I sequence during her 96 Crayons speech. Explaining how they both feel such high highs and such low lows melded the two together and gave meaning to the conflict they experienced in their Relationship Story Throughline of a son taking care of his mother.
And it wasn’t as if a Throughline was missing: the Overall Story Throughline of learning to live with life’s disappointments rounded out the narrative and gave it a feeling of completeness.
But cutting off the story before we have had a chance to see both Story Outcome and Story Judgment robs us of a meaningful experience. That lack of completeness shatters our trust. A clever technique that fosters word of mouth and arthouse fame? Definitely. But it is also an approach that will lead to this film to the pile of forgotten cinema.
Audiences respond and embrace stories that give them something they can’t acquire in real life—namely, a meaning to our life’s experience. Denying that resolution only grants us more of what we go through everyday.
And really, who wants that?