From the outset, Ry Russo-Young’s Nobody Walks surges with sexuality. New York artist Martine (Olivia Thirlby in a cute pixie haircut) flies to Los Angeles to work on her experimental film and gets pulled into a hot make-out session before she even gets out of the parking lot. Turns out her partner is the guy she happened to sit next to on the plane. He’s giving her a ride, and although she doesn’t go all the way, it’s like she thinks—or he thinks, or they both think—that she owes him something, and sex is her currency.
In L.A., Martine is working and staying with a friend of a friend, Peter (John Kraskinski), a sound engineer with a home studio in golden-hued Silver Lake. Martine moves into the pool house, and they get to work recording the sounds of lemons being squeezed, Coke cans being opened and matches being lit—all filmed in intimate close-up—for the soundtrack of her artsy black-and-white nature film featuring scorpions. Instantly, Peter is drawn to her talent, her charm, her youth.
Theirs isn’t the only illicit attraction. Peter’s wife Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), a therapist, fends off the advances of a patient (Justin Kirk) while her teenage daughter Kolt (India Ennenga) navigates the treacherous waters of her own burgeoning sexuality. Crushing on Peter’s assistant David (Rhys Wakefield), she watches helplessly as he inevitably hooks up with Martine while Kolt’s nerdy friend Avi (Sam Lerner) patiently waits for her to return his affection. Not even Peter and Julie’s young son Dusty (Mason Welch) can escape the sexually charged atmosphere as he places a curious hand on Martin’s bare leg.
In the scant 82-minute script by director Russo-Young and her co-writer Lena Dunham (the creator of Girls who just signed a $3.5 million book deal), Peter falls for Martine quickly. So quickly that it stretches credibility, neglecting to take the time to let it happen organically in their rush to get to what comes next. And he falls for her hard. Really hard. Like, what-the-hell-is-he-doing hard.
But what it leads to is interesting, a defiance of expectations and exploration of sexual politics that challenges convention—both in art and in real life. Dunham’s HBO show baldly exposes the unattractive reality of modern young womanhood. Her character Hannah particularly isn’t always as empowered as we’d like our portrayals of girls to be. Likewise, Martine professes to admire Julie and the “post-feminist wolf pack” she used to run with but still seems to think she has to use sex to get what she wants.
Meanwhile, Kolt unsheathes her budding sensuality awkwardly and cruelly in a scene that suddenly lends nuance to what had been a stock character: her pervy Italian tutor, who teetered on the border of impropriety with his nubile student. In Nobody Walks, female sexuality is powerful. It’s irresistible and it’s persuasive—to all parties involved. But it’s also combustible. Wield it wisely.
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Writers: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young
Starring: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Dylan McDermott, Justin Kirk, Rhys Wakfield
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2012