Nobody Walks
Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // $29.98 // January 22, 2013
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 1, 2013
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The standout sequence in Nobody Walks has its central characters aiming a directional microphone at small, seemingly mundane events that, when examined more closely, prove to be larger, joyous, and wholly entrancing.
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That sensation is what Nobody Walks as a film is ultimately trying to capture as well. There are no sweeping romances beginning to bloom. There isn't a villain to vanquish, a clock to outrun, a seemingly insurmountable hurdle to leap over, nor a heart to win. It's a series of moments, closely observed.

Martine (Olivia Thirlby) is an early twentysomething artist who's made the trek from New York to Los Angeles to finish her experimental film. A friend from back east put her
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in touch with Peter (John Krasinski), a Hollywood sound designer with time to kill until his next project gets underway, so it's kismet. Peter has a pretty nice home studio, Martine's set up shop in the pool house; his Silver Lake home winds up being a kind of artist commune with ritzier property values and an unusually intense fixation on sound. Peter feeds off of Martine's passion, talent, and youthful energy, and their working relationship eventually turns into a sort of flirtation, which turns into...well, something else altogether. Nobody Walks is about the transformative impact of attraction -- less about fulfilling that desire than the lingering effects it can inspire, regardless of whether or not that fixation has been consummated.

Nobody Walks somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts. It offers a very intimate view of filmmaking in Los Angeles, propelled by an infectious joy of creation. Nobody Walks benefits greatly from its terrific cast. I've always thought of John Krasinski as a likeable but rarely more than serviceable actor, but Nobody Walks shows how comfortable a fit drama is for him as well. Krasinski deftly fields both the soaring highs of an artist infatuated as well as the crashing lows of obsession and loss. Rosemary DeWitt is expectedly marvelous as Peter's wife, quietly forming the emotionally resonant core of the film. India Ennenga was previously an unknown quantity to me, but it's clear that hers is a name to keep an eye out for. As Peter's teenaged stepdaughter Kolt, Ennenga is affected, both positively and negatively, by Martine's intrusion...drawn towards her yet desperate for her to leave. As is the case with most everyone else in the film, Kolt both desires and is desired.

It's through Olivia Thirlby the presence of co-writer Lena Dunham is most greatly felt. Martine doesn't know who or what she is, exactly. This character isn't some Manic Pixie Dream Girl who's there to jab a syringe full of
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adrenaline into a staid, lifeless family's humdrum existence; she's actually stepped foot into a very happy and very well-balanced home. She's not a temptress, coldly and calculatedly scheming to steal Peter away from his wife and kids. There's a sexual ferocity within Martine that doesn't necessarily come down to intercourse. The decisions she makes may be destructive but are without guile. Martine isn't a victim. She's hardly in command. She's drawn richly enough to feel believably real and yet remains enough of a cipher for everyone in close proximity to project whatever they want onto her. Thirlby is invariably the most memorable element of every film in which I've seen her, and that's certainly the case here as well.

As well-crafted as Nobody Walks is on so many levels -- from a unilaterally terrific cast to its quietly striking cinematography -- it ultimately doesn't come together as a film. Characters are often introduced then quickly discarded or shuffled so deeply onto the sidelines that their presence is forgotten. The wildly uneven pacing is a struggle even with a runtime that doesn't even break the 80 minute mark, minus credits. Nobody Walks feels as if it's primarily interested in building to a key moment that arrives halfway through, and it's unable to maintain that same energy and momentum once that's out of the way. I was engaged by the performances but felt little investment in the actual characters, and there's not enough of a narrative for my attention to be directed there instead. There are such an absurd number of infatuations that each new one that's introduced begins to feel like that much more of a distraction. Nobody Walks would likely benefit from a tighter, more concentrated focus; there's a great deal of potential here, but few of the plot threads are explored deeply enough to really mean much of anything. At the end of the day, I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to take away from the film. Martine arrives, she indulges her passions, she inadvertently does some damage, and...well, that's pretty much it. A fair amount of time is devoted in the extras to noting what a transformative effect Martine has on this family, but is anyone really substantively changed by the time the end credits roll?

For a film where passion is such a focal point, it comes as a disappointment that all Nobody Walks inspires is indifference. Rent It.

I was thrilled to see that Nobody Walks was lensed on 16mm. That warm, filmic texture wonderfully complements the movie, and it wouldn't evoke nearly the same tone with smooth, glossy digital cinematography. This does
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mean that there's a fair amount of grain on display, just as there should be, and that's faithfully retained on Blu-ray. Though the image is immediately recognizable as high definition, there is a tinge of softness, and it's less richly detailed than a 35mm or digital production would be. The AVC encode doesn't struggle with the challenging texture, and I was unable to spot any missteps in the authoring. Nobody Walks by design isn't a reference quality release, but this Blu-ray disc looks to be a very faithful rendition of the original photography.

Nobody Walks arrives on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

One of the central characters of Nobody Walks is a sound designer, so I guess it follows that the film would take such a stylized approach to audio. Though this Blu-ray disc does feature a 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, the surrounds are almost entirely dormant outside of the recording of Martine's experimental short. If there's not a directional microphone on-screen or footage from Scorpio unspooling, the rear channels might as well be dead silent. Those sequences are in so many ways the driving force of Nobody Walks, and that aesthetic greatly heightens their strength and also encourages viewers to listen with the same intensity as Martine and Peter. The subdued nature of the film doesn't lend itself to anything otherwise sonically adventurous, although dialogue is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly in the mix, and the synth-bass in Peter's ambient score is impressively substantial. Very effective.

There are no dubs, alternate mixes, or audio commentaries this time around. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH) and Spanish.

  • Scorpio (5 min.; HD): The standout extra is Martine's experimental short Scorpio, presented here in full, and yes, those entrancing synths are presented in lossless audio.

  • Deleted Scene (2 min.; HD): Nobody Walks' lone deleted scene takes a look at a car ride with Kolt and a gaggle of her friends. The
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    90 second clip also gives Jane Levy a little more time in front of the camera to make up for her otherwise blink-and-oops-you-missed-it role.

  • Interviews (34 min.; HD): Nobody Walks features a pair of interviews: one with director/co-writer Ry Russo-Young and the other with actress Olivia Thirlby. Russo-Young's interview, clocking in at 22 minutes all told, is wonderfully comprehensive. Among the many topics of discussion are replicating the sensation of a New Yorker suddenly transplanted to L.A., the research and inspiration that went into capturing Los Angeles on film, casting, sound design, and the process of co-writing the film with Lena Dunham. She also delves deeply into Nobody Walks' characters as well as some of what the film is ultimately trying to convey. The more cursory conversation with Thirlby touches on some of Martine's defining characteristics, the family structure she invades, the intimacy of listening, and what attracted her to the film. Thirlby's is a charming chat, but if you only have time for one interview, the conversation with Russo-Young is your best bet.

  • AXS TV: A Look at Nobody Walks (5 min.; HD): It's the trailer padded out with interviews you've already watched. Nice for the sake of completion, I guess, but it's a strictly promotional piece that repackages extras that are already on the disc.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a two minute trailer.

The Final Word
Nobody Walks is frustratingly okay, seizing hold of all the right elements but unable to transform them into anything particularly engaging. Rent It.

Then Again...
I kind of do want to grade Nobody Walks on a curve for having John Krasinski fiddle with a Moogerfooger MF-105. Sorry, it warms my cold, soulless heart.

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