“The Strange Ones” has had a long, winding road to its Friday limited release, opening in New York and Los Angeles among other national locations from distributor Vertical Entertainment.
Conceived as a short by directors Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein that first premiered at Sundance in 2011, then went on to SXSW, a now a feature-length work arrives to theaters after an exclusive run 0n DirecTV.
Alex Pettyfer stars in this dreamy (or nightmare-y, depending on who you ask) and haunting tale of two people on the run. His character Nick, a slippery and brooding young man, is carting around James Freedson-Jackson’s Sam, a young boy.
The pair present as brothers thanks to their blonde hair and general listlessness, to other characters in the film and to the audience as well. That’s until Radcliff and Wolkenstein’s beautiful, ephemeral camerwork starts painting a different story about who these two are and how they came together.
“There’s such a purity and naïveté to the work. It’s all built on intuition,” Pettyfer told TheWrap.
“When I took the part, I was fasciated to see how they would evolve the short [film]. I read the script, and the script is very different from the finished film,” he said.
Without spoiling much, Nick and Sam are united by a bond “forever strong” Pettyfer said. But that should not imply its purity or any absence of toxicity — there’ s a disturbing codependence Sam shows toward his elder, that can often veer into a sort heartless indifference depending on their collective mood.
Their little escapade dissolves into tension every time a passing adult stares too long, or two beat cops take the table next to them at a diner. Eventually Sam escapes Nick, and it’s suggested to the authorities who rescue him that Sam was abused by his keeper.
“Nick is after escapism, he wants what James character is after,” Pettyfer said. “There’s a bond between them thats forever strong, I think they have the kind of experience you grow from or you don’t.”
As far as any alleged abuse is concerned, Pettyfter contends “it’s left to the imagination. The abuse part of it is kind of implied but never really seen. I think it was handled really tastefully by Chris and Lauren.”
“The Strange Ones” ultimately barrels toward this inevitable isolation. a more literal one for Nick and an emotional one for Sam. Conclusions aren’t easily drawn, because they’re not really available for you.
“What’s beautiful about filmmaking is that you can go into the edit room and things can change,” Pettyfer said. “This film is almost like a mirage, you’re told one thing and then you see another.”
“The Strange Ones” is currently in select theaters.