Hidden Relationships and the Paradoxes of Desire
By DAVE KEHR, The New York Times

Shot on video in and around Los Angeles's bohemian Silver Lake district, Eric Byler's "Charlotte Sometimes" is a small, subtle character study about a young Asian-American, Michael (Michael Idemoto), who by day repairs cars and by night manages a small apartment building that belongs to his aunt.

One of Michael's tenants is Lori (Eugenia Yuan), a soft, girlish aspiring actress with whom he is desperately, silently in love. The walls are thin enough in Michael's building that he can hear Lori and her boyfriend (Matt Westmore) making vigorous love night after night. Something that pains him immensely because Lori has developed the habit of dropping in on Michael once her boyfriend
has fallen asleep. They sit up talking and watching videos, while Michael burns with unrequited passion.

Michael's social life takes an apparent turn for the better when he
encounters Darcy (Jacqueline Kim) in a bar. Darcy is alluring, exotic and a little bit cruel; she seduces the hapless Michael but keeps her emotional distance, telling him, "I'm nobody's type" and disappearing for days at a time.



As "Charlotte Sometimes" unfolds, Mr. Byler, the writer and director, reveals some hidden relationships among the characters, which serve, among other things, to explain the enigmatic title. Some of these developments flirt with melodramatic coincidence, but Mr. Byler's low-key visual style and the restrained, naturalistic performances he has drawn from his actors contribute a strong
enough sense of reality to overcome the plot contrivances.

Like almost every domestic drama with an Asian connection, "Charlotte Sometimes" has been compared to the work of Yasujiro Ozu, the Japanese master of emotional understatement. But "Charlotte Sometimes" seems closer in spirit to the work of the French filmmaker Eric Rohmer, sharing his fascination with
courtship rituals among the young and the paradoxes of desire.

Like Mr. Rohmer, Mr. Byler keeps his camera at a discreet distance from his actors, declining the easy emotional emphasis of close-ups in favor of the complex interaction of two actors sharing the same frame, communicating through glances and gestures rather than words.

"Charlotte Sometimes," which opens today in Manhattan, is a tiny film that reflects a large talent.

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