Screening as part of the American Essentials Film Festival, Outside In should no doubt be a highlight amongst its other counterparts. After 20 years in prison, Chris (Jay Duplass) comes back to his small home town where he reunites with his high school teacher Carol (Edie Falco), who helped reduce his sentence.
Outside In plays on real emotions and the decisions we make, good or bad, that essentially end up shaping our lives. The performances on display here cut so close to the bone, you sometimes have to remind yourself that you’re watching a movie and not a documentary.
When Chris gets a lukewarm welcome home from his family (this is eventually explained in the third act, as is the crime he was convicted for), his first instinct is to run into the arms of Carol. Clearly there is something more between them than anyone else suspects. Carol’s marriage is essentially non-existent (her husband sleeps in a separate room), but tries to keep a healthy relationship with her teenage daughter Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever), who appears to be already outgrowing the small town life.
Once Chris confesses his love for Carol, it throws her into an emotional tailspin and it’s here both Duplass and Falco really shine with their performances. The little nuances that each actor bounce off each other comes across so realistically and naturally, you’d think it’s all happening for real. Chris also forms a friendship with Hildy which serves as both a hindrance and blessing within the emotional state of affairs involving Carol.
Director Lynn Shelton deserves equal credit here as she brings out the story (both Duplass and herself co-wrote the screenplay) by simply letting the actors play off of each other, without any fancy camera angles or dramatic music. Not many directors can convey the type of atmosphere and emotion through characters on film the way she can, as already proven with some of her previous works that include Humpday (2009) and Your Sister’s Sister (2011), both of which are worth viewing if Outside In delves into your emotional core.