Skip to main content

Norma Kuhling stars as Jo in Dan Sallitt's Fourteen.

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

  • Fourteen
  • Written and directed by Dan Sallitt
  • Starring Tallie Medel, Norma Kuhling and C. Mason Wells
  • Classification N/A; 94 minutes

rating

3 out of 4 stars

It is either the best or worst time to be an independent filmmaker. Sure, production is shut down and theatres are shuttered – and when the world does start running again, indie projects will be entering a market of unprecedented financial restraint and strategic tumult. But most of the major studios are keeping their conversation-hogging movies on the shelf, leaving just enough room for low-budget fare to enjoy a brief, tiny second in the spotlight.

To that end, Dan Sallitt’s impressive but extremely low-fi film Fourteen should reap the backward benefits of the moment. Chronicling the decade-long dissolution of a friendship between two young women, Fourteen is a film that would normally be completely lost in the cultural conversation – swallowed up even in the insular art-house realm. Which would be unfortunate, given that Sallitt has accomplished something sincere and thoughtful here, a twin character study that is as curious about relationships as it is about the cinematic form.

Story continues below advertisement

The film examines the dissolution of the friendship between Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo.

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

When Sallitt first introduces us to Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo (Norma Kuhling), the friends seem perfectly matched – the stable and career-minded writer/daycare worker Mara leans on the carefree impulsivity of sometimes social-worker Jo to offset the anxiety of being a young adult in New York. Jo, meanwhile, finds a sympathetic shoulder in Mara to lean against when her own struggles become too much (which is often).

The two women commiserate, gossip, cycle through suitors, and then come up against their own, and each other’s, limitations – with Sallitt capturing it all in a beguilingly elliptical fashion, sometimes jumping months or years with a single cut. At other times, the director stops all narrative momentum to ponder the day-to-day life of a single setting, turning Mara and Jo’s tale into just one of many possibilities worth exploring in the filmmaker’s version of New York. The film’s rhythm might sound jarring on paper, but Fourteen is more a work of structural playfulness and experimentation than gimmicky manipulation.

Medel seems to pour her entire self into the exasperated persona of Mara, writes Barry Hertz.

Courtesy of Grasshopper Film

The performances, however, edge toward playfulness in the entirely wrong way, with amateur being the through-line for everyone onscreen but Medel and Kuhling. Those two leads are quietly powerful in their own ways, with Kuhling adding layers and history to what seems like a Greta Gerwig spin on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and Medel pouring what seems like her entire self into Mara’s exasperated persona. But Sallitt, a long-time fixture of New York’s indie cinema scene thanks to both his filmmaking and his criticism, stacks a good deal of his cast with nonactor friends and lets them flail.

Still, Sallitt is grasping for something profound here – a portrait of friendship seen both up-close and from a distance. Fourteen may ultimately be just that – a grasp – but it is worth reaching out for all the same.

Fourteen is available to rent digitally via VIFF at Home, with half the box-office proceeds going directly to the Vancouver cinema’s operations and staff

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies