Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (NR)

Drama 94 May 23, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
What a difference a camera makes. In the context of Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, a narrative feature that plays like an impressionistic record of the New York subway experience circa exactly right now, train-car breakdancers prove a wonder rather than a dangerous annoyance. Framed by the shuddering lights, the silvery roof, and the knees of an audience determined not to notice them, these kids, so cocksure and defiant, loose something effervescent in themselves as they pop and whirl.

The story concerns an autistic teenager's days spent riding the trains in a daze as his family searches for him. Looming over all of this is an approaching storm -- while the great scenes of train-life capture what feels like this week, the film is set in October 2012, with Hurricane Sandy bearing down. For all that, director Sam Fleischner is mostly dedicated to showing us everything millions of people glance at each day but don't actually regard: the brilliant play of light and shadow on subway windows, and the way the headlamps, as you space out, seem to flatten to colored wafers.

"You're both so focused on your screens, you don't even notice there's no light!" the boy's mother carps to her kids in the opening moments. The same goes for the passengers slumped about Ricky (Jesus Sanchez-Velez) on his trek. That it's a thrill to watch humdrum train life through Ricky's eyes underscores one of the ironies of our age: Patient, observational film demands you surrender to it, that you keep your phone in your pocket, which means movie theaters now sometimes offer a more unmediated look at the world than life itself does.
Sam Fleischner Andrea Suarez Paz, Jesus Sanchez-Velez, Azul Zorrilla, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Kevin Bewersdorf Micah Bloomberg, Rose Lichter-Marck Andrew Neel, Veronica Nickel, Dave Saltzman, Craig Shilowich Oscilloscope Pictures

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