That's what life's all about." -Mark
It's a shame, because first-time writer/director Adam Santangelo reeled me into this world of two best friends--but fell short of closing the deal. With about 25 more minutes, the film could have explored some plotlines only hinted at and developed its two protagonists a little more. As it stands, Half a Person is a respectable slice-of-life story about an odd couple of slacker twentysomethings escaping the boredom of life in Sudbury, Ontario by taking a road trip. Unfortunately, the film leaves us a little too soon, not fulfilling its small yet sincere promise.
Alex and Mark have been best buds since high school. Alex (Nigel Smith) is a straight and single shy guy with a menial job and little luck with women. Mostly out of obligation, he leases a room from Mark (Michael Majeski), an unemployed, charismatic gay man with money problems who lives with boyfriend Tom (Andrew Udell). Both of them want something better for their life, but Alex seems more intent on making it happen while Mark just wants to have fun. The two friends don't have much going for them, and when Alex decides to hit the road to "sort out" some things in Toronto, Mark invites himself.
Along the way, Alex pays a visit to someone from his past, and Mark's short temper starts to surface. They also encounter two younger women: Alex bonds with Crystal (Joanna Haughton), while Mark gets attention from Julie (Taylor Trowbridge), who thinks Mark is straight. We also learn about a night in high school where the two friends bonded, leading to Mark coming out of the closet to his family.
Not much happens during the slow Half a Person, and viewers in need of major developments and a tidy conclusion will be frustrated. That makes it all the more impressive that I was so drawn into the lead characters, brought to life by two great performances. There's a believable chemistry between them, and it's fun just watching them constantly joke around and get on each other's nerves. "Did you ever look around yourself and realize what we have here isn't a normal friendship?" asks Alex, with Mark later pointing out: "No one understands my shit like you did...and I know you better than you know yourself." (Adds a perceptive Tom: "Aren't you guys joined at the hip?")
Majeski is a true talent, utilizing his good looks and charm to make even a huge asshole like Mark likeable--you hate him but you love him, and that's a sign of a natural. And Smith is superb at suffering in silence, the straight man in more ways than one (the two supporting women are also fantastic). You believe these two people exist, and their co-dependence (much like their complacency) is relatable--it's likely you've been on one side of this kind of relationship.
The dynamic between the two accounts for the film's building tension, and questions about their bond--most of which don't really get answered (an admission by Alex is interrupted and never visited again)--linger in the air, culminating in the film's most powerful moment: a simple yet steamy scene involving a stare that speaks volumes (what it says, however, is up to interpretation). But much of the feelings--and a lot of the story--in Half a Person are left unsaid.
Still, these are two people I enjoyed watching and listening to, two people I cared about. I wanted to see and know more, which made the abrupt ending a painful experience. Just what was really going on between them? We may never know, but that's life...and it's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, right? Half a Person is an incomplete movie that doesn't have much going on, but I'm still glad I watched it. If you're up for a watch that's alternately funny, poignant and frustrating, half at it.