Tribeca Film Festival review: One Percent More Humid

Ridgefield native Liz Garcia’s newest film scores ‘Best Actor’ win for Alessandro Nivola

Julia Garner and Juno Temple star in One Percent More Humid. — Andreas Burgess photo

Grief does not discriminate.

It can happen to men, or women; at any time, or any place.

And because of its limitless nature, agony can become a common ground shared by two people suffering at different stages in their life — one with the glory days that are behind him and his counterpart, a young college female, with so many years in front of her.

Pain is abundant in One Percent More Humid — the second feature-length film from Ridgefield High School graduate and Hollywood director Liz Garcia, who returns to her New England roots to explore the fractured friendship between Iris (Juno Temple) and Catherine (Julia Garner) as they spend their summer skinny-dipping into lakes and attending college parties.

Of course, that’s at the surface level.

What’s hiding beneath is much more troubling: two young women trying to come to terms with an unspeakable trauma that they suffered only four months ago.

Unfortunately, there is no peace to be found at the end of this sun-soaked getaway, despite the litany of distractions Iris and Catherine gather for themselves.

Those vehicles of diversion include alcohol and marijuana, among other things. But the most dangerous — and bountiful — that they each gravitate towards is sex.

And this is where Garcia’s film surprises.

While we’ve seen plenty of professor-student affairs over the years — as well as young twentysomethings burned out by the loss of a friend, the heart of One Percent More Humid lies inside Gerald, a struggling writer (played by Tribeca Film Festival Best Actor-winner Alessandro Nivola) who begins to cheat on his wife (the magnificent Maggie Siff) with Iris even though he knows it won’t cure any of his despair.

Nivola masters the hopelessness of the character in several subtle scenes. One of note comes after visiting Iris at her deli job. He stands in the parking lot after hanging up the phone, and the audience almost hears his brain saying, “Whatever you do, don’t go back in there.”

He does it anyway. The affair begins, and the marriage (eventually) ends.

But it’s a moment that foreshadows the inevitable: grief can reproduce itself like any virus.
The torment never goes away for Gerald, who is deservingly entrusted with a great deal of the film’s plot.

The exchange isn’t free.

The rise of Nivola comes at the expense of Garner’s character who’s never given enough screen time to be fully developed, which leaves the broken friendship feeling a little lopsided — if not irreparable.

Should we care more about the girls or the man?

The answer is unclear at the film’s end, and that diminishes the pleasant, unexpecting shift towards Gerald around its midpoint.

 

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