There’s no better statement on romance than the idea that sometimes the ones that we love the most aren’t always the best thing for us. With “Elephants” director-writer Alexander Hanno constructs a truly good romance dramedy based around how nostalgia can often leave us stagnant and stuck in one place. “Elephants” is a very sad movie about two people so in love that they automatically hurt each other’s prospects at success in life, but also about getting stuck in remembering the past, and not accepting that we have to move forward and look ahead.
After three years in prison, Lee returns to Los Angeles to get back his ex-girlfriend Kate. Kate has been living alone in her mother’s old house and is preparing to move to a new place. When he begs her to let him stay the night, they fall in to the same old habits, and rekindle their ill-fated romance that originally caused Kate to dive in to alcoholism and seek psychiatric help. As they begin building their romance once again, Kate’s progress begins suffering, and at the behest of her sister Sandra, has to evaluate if Lee is worth sacrificing everything she’s gained. A film like “Elephants” depends on the performances from its cast, and Alexander Hanno manages to direct a wonderful ensemble.
Seriously, the performances here border on brilliant at times, as the trio of Luca Malacrino, Allison Blaize, and Lauren Kelly are just downright impressive to watch. Malacrino is the perfect stunted male as Lee, a man who has a tendency to drag everyone down with him, while Blaize is great as the complex Kate who fears growing. Once Lee enters her life not only does she have an excuse to keep from growing up, but she also finds the perfect scapegoat to account for her self-sabotage. I especially loved stand out Lauren Kelly as Kate’s overbearing sister, a pregnant over achiever who works overtime time in getting Kate to stand up and move on with her life. Sandra’s character is beautifully written as someone who is initially grating and obnoxious.
The more Hanno peels away at her character over the progression of the narrative, the more we learn about what she’s been through and how much she’s invested in helping Kate grow up and accept that she simply can’t go back in to the past and stay stuck as a perpetual child. Writer/Director Alexander Hanno delves a lot in to the dangers of staying stuck in the past, and refusing to accept that some people are just bad for us. He’s very good about turning characters around and allowing us to see both sides of their personalities so that we can either empathize with them, or downright root against them. “Elephants” does occasionally meander a bit with some brief moments of exposition that felt forced, but Hanno redeems all of it with some compelling sequences, including a very tense dinner scene, and a great confrontation between Kate and Sandra in a bathroom. “Elephants” is a great film about toxic love, and I hope people seek it out.