The images that make up writer-director Nenad Cicin-Sain's debut film are so exquisitely composed that the movie feels, for a long while, like a trance-inducing tone poem. Unfortunately, the filmmaker also has a story to tell, and storytelling is his weak spot. Daniel (Wes Bentley), a struggling L.A. painter with a wife and child to support, agrees to a series of odd, high-paying assignments. His boss is a reclusive millionaire named Warner (Frank Langella) who sends Daniel to videotape a sunset, a playground, and a San Francisco art exhibit. Daniel's tasks lead to complex revelations about Warner's past, but Cicin-Sain and co-writer Richard N. Gladstein under-write nearly every scene, as if they're embarrassed by the mechanics of plot. The result is that the characters, who include Sarah Paulson as the unexpected subject of Daniel's videos, don't respond to events in ways that feel true to themselves, or to how the world works. Nonetheless, Cicin-Sain, collaborating with cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., is in full command of his camera's eye. The painting sequences, as well as the visual cues connecting one scene to another, are gorgeous. Cicin-Sain may need a screenwriting class, but he already has the gift that can't be taught: He can see.
Nenad Cicin-SainWes Bentley, Sarah Paulson, Frank Langella, Ahna O'Reilly, Corey Stoll, Jeremy Allen White, Gina Gallego, Megan Kuhlmann, Greg Siff, Sandra SeacatRichard N. Gladstein, Nenad Cicin-SainRichard N. GladsteinTribeca Film