2 Stars
Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 9 minutes
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Have you ever felt so despondent that you could lock yourself in your room for a year or more? It is not an uncommon feeling, although most people eventually kick themselves in the ass and get on with their daily lives without giving in to the temptation. In “Dear XXX,” writer James Tamborello and Director Daniel Cavey take a minute (or rather, nine minutes) to explore this idea of self isolation.
“Dear XXX” tells the depressing story of a nameless narrator (Greg Braun) who locks himself in his house for a year with only his record collection to keep him company. All other aspects of the outside world are cut off, and the only human contact he has is a bi-weekly grocery drop-off by an unseen neighbor.
He wants to escape from a world that has hurt him and the people he shouldn’t have trusted. There are hints that a woman might have been the catalyst for his imprisonment, but it easily could have been just a general frustration with the human condition.
The narrator finds solace in his music, which is a bit of a tired concept. We are treated to several scenes featuring his epileptic dancing style, and eventually his dancing and music fail to give him comfort. This leads him to face the challenge of human contact again, beginning with a letter to an unknown XXX.
Shot on 16mm, the aesthetic of “Dear XXX” is heavy and gritty, and the color saturation reminds me of a 1970s educational film. The soundtrack is composed of narration and some selections from his beloved record collection. It can easily be mistaken for an MOS Super8 short, but the choice of film stock is relevant to the emotions the narrator feels.
Throughout the nine minutes, we are treated to some intriguing camera angles, in which director of photography Brian Harding crams the action into corners and margins, adding to the oppressive claustrophobia of the film.
“Dear XXX” suffers from several pitfalls that consume many indie directors, including needless narration and shots that run on a little too long. For example, the opening shots show a driving sequence where credits would normally appear (one might assume the director didn’t have the money to drop in opticals on his print.) There are also some leaps of logic, such the narrator soundproofing his walls and destroying his radio and television to avoid any outside faces or voices, yet keeping his window shades perpetually open.
The film is not tedious, but it is not a freight train of excitement either as the narrator struggles to return to the living world. Part of the goal of the filmmakers is apparently to give the viewer a sense of isolation and despair, and that is achieved.
Ultimately, “Dear XXX” gives us hope if the monotone narrator can pull himself back together, the rest of us can when we get that very human urge to lock ourselves in our bedroom, listen to records, and eat Oreos all day.

Posted on December 15, 2003 in Reviews by

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