Strange, disorienting and unexpectedly affectionate, the documentary 45365 weaves together an emotional tapestry from life in the small town of Sydney, Ohio (the location of the zip code of the film’s title). Directed by brothers Bill and Turner Ross, the film won the jury prize at last year’s SXSW Film Festival, and more recently picked up the Independent Spirit Awards’ Truer Than Fiction honor. It’s easy to see why: The Rosses’ reliance on ambient sounds and seemingly offhanded imagery, their unusual sense of patience with letting scenes play out, sets them apart from many young documentary filmmakers, who are often trying to push the issues and ideas of their film forward in a way that comes off as too literal-minded. The Ross brothers just wait. Small, unforced narratives emerge: an ex-con trying to stay out of jail and worried about his woman; a levelheaded teenage girl’s emotional ups and downs; a drug-hustling mother and son. The Rosses’ editorializing comes through in their editing: They crosscut to create juxtapositions, putting a high school bonfire against a cop’s flashlight at a roadside DUI test, or the football field that goes from the chaos of the big game to meditative, snow-covered reverie in the blink of an eye. It may seem that the Ross brothers are crafting a real-world analogue to David Lynch’s creepy visions of American life, in which something awful is always percolating underneath the surface, but 45365 never goes there. In staying, in a sense, on the surface, the brothers instead create something that is at once both mysterious and celebratory.
Downtown Independent, March 19-25.