SIFF Film Review – 9 Full Moons
I know these people. I am these people. Well, not exactly. There is a specificity of character that separates me from Frankie and Lev, but their inner struggles and their situation touches on the universal. 9 Full Moons, an independent film from Tomer Almagor and starring Amy Seimetz and Bret Roberts as Frankie and Lev respectively, hits close to home for me. Almagor’s film matter-of-factly follows the budding relationship between two seemingly dissonant people. As the film progresses, we find out they aren’t so dissimilar in spirit—that they are two fractured souls attempting to overcome past traumas. The relationship they form is an attempt at healing each other, at coming to terms with their past and with themselves. 9 Full Moons is an honest chronicle of the relationship between two lost souls, and though it may make some minor missteps along the way, this film is truly affecting.
Across a dance floor that pulsates with sound and light, Frankie spots Lev brooding, then pulls him to her, kisses him, and begins to dance. When the two make their way outside to share a cigarette and a conversation, Frankie finds that Lev isn’t much for words. He won’t even give her his name. And so begins the film and their relationship.
Frankie is a mess. She’s a drinker and a partier and she’s so down on herself that she views a rape from a friend as a matter of course. Well, she cuts herself, but when Lev comes back for a wallet he’s lost and that she’s found, she tells him, “I got raped,” as if it were no big deal. She then asks him, as if it were a perfectly good conversation starter, “Have you ever raped anyone?” Frankie is portrayed perfectly by Amy Seimetz, who is turning out to be a talent to watch out for. She’s turned in bravura performances in such films as The Off Hours and Upstream Color, and her directorial debut, Sun Don’t Shine, is a flawed gem of a crime film. Frankie’s desperation, pain, and vulnerability that blossoms into a quiet confidence through the course of the relationship and film have been captured by Siemetz with such nuance, it’s breathtaking.
Lev, on the other hand, is a bit more of a static character. He changes, of course, just not so drastically. As the film starts, Lev is seen as a chauffeur for a music label, escorting artists around LA. He makes his own music, though, and gains the attention of a few people who hire him on as a sound mixer for the country music legend Charlie King Nash (Donal Logue). Lev is a stoic, reserved man who uses a minimal amount of words to say what he means. His confidence and honesty earns him the trust of Nash, and the two begin collaborating on an album. Lev’s professionalism and determination is in stark contrast to Frankie’s despondency, but beneath Lev’s quiet surface hides an anger that rushes out violently when provoked. Bret Roberts does the best he can with a role that mostly requires him to stare and brood. The “quiet man” archetype can bring down a film when not enough of a character is exposed to draw sympathy from the viewer, and this film almost falls into that trap. However, there are some key scenes that expose Lev’s softer side, such as a powerful moment when Lev and Frankie walk to their car after a doctor’s visit, or when Lev visits his parents later in the film.
And so 9 Full Moons is a quiet, contemplative film, that realistically and honestly charts the progression of a tenuous relationship between two broken people. Early on, Frankie says to Lev, “You heal me.” And herein lies the key to the film. The two see in each other’s eyes a similar tortured past, and attempt, through a union, to work out each other’s issues. We see them meet, move in, and try, for better or worse, to fit into each other’s lives, and this film maps that terrain frankly yet sympathetically. And while there is no real narrative—it is just a linear progression of events in their shared lives—there is a cumulative power that is quite affecting and that touched me deeply.
Final Grade: A-