Director: Joshua Caldwell
Writer: Joshua Caldwell
Stars: Nathalie Fay, Karl E. Landler, Bella Dayne
Release Date: May 30, 2014 (Seattle International Film Festival) / October 13, 2015 (VOD)
A promising debut with engaging talent, Layover seizes the moment and makes some striking first impressions.
Layover is the feature-length directorial debut of Joshua Caldwell, the first in a planned trilogy of films that begin with a protagonist arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport. This first entry follows Simone, a Parisian woman who has a 12-hour layover period before her flight to Singapore where her soon-to-be fiancé awaits. She's on the eve of a day that could very well determine the course of the rest of her life. I found her desire to explore a foreign city for the first time to be a completely understandable detour, a final taste of the unknown before her life (as she knows it) is set in stone.
Simone reconnects with an old friend and meets some new ones during her short stay. We stick with her for every plot point of the night, skipping past any downtime but lingering through every conversation in real-time. Simone's phone call with her boyfriend while pacing the hotel room clues us in on their relationship status, setting the scene and establishing the stakes for what she might do the rest of the night.
Simone is played by Nathalie Fay in one of her most important roles to date. She's had small parts in bigger movies, but this is precisely the kind of spotlight she needs to prove she's more than just another pretty face in Town. She is in practically every frame of the film and takes the lead like a pro. During her one-night adventure she meets "the mysterious motorcyclist" played by Karl E. Landler. He's deserving of a lot of the same praise. Fay and Landler emerge as alluring and charismatic stars. Along with writer/director Joshua Caldwell, it is clear from Layover that all three are going places.
For me, the film captured a familiar city anew through the eyes of a foreigner, with some of the best realistic depictions of nighttime Los Angeles this side of Michael Mann's Collateral. From the clubs and the after-parties to the business districts that shut down at night, Layover is a rapid tour of LA and the lifestyles you encounter here. In some of its more peeled-back scenes, characters observe and discuss working in the entertainment industry. Any who have tried to catch a break in this Town will know the honesty involved and it's apparent that it is coming from a close-to-home place for the filmmakers.
Caldwell and producer Travis Oberlander made Layover on an astonishing $6,000 budget. That used to be practically unheard of but is becoming a viable option for many independent filmmakers. A solid script, willing talent and a Canon 5D are all you sometimes need to make it happen. Layover completely satisfies as a character-driven drama, but it will further inspire filmmakers to push achievable projects to the front of their plate.
The comparison to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise comes easily. Filmmaking techniques aside, it's a film about two strangers crossing paths, seizing the moment and getting to know each other while they have it. In just 83 minutes Simone and those she meets assess past, present and future, they confront friendship, fidelity and jealousy and consider passions, dreams and careers. At the beginning of the night she knew she was going to be getting on a plane in 12 hours. See what she knows and what you'll know by the time it's over.