Newly Single is one of those rare Woody Allen type films where you see the same name multiple times in the opening credits. Adam Christian Clark is the heart and soul of this film, serving as the star, screenwriter, producer, and director, but to say his character is the heart and soul is giving our protagonist, Astor, a little too much credit.
Astor is a millennial, living in a nice LA apartment, is an aspiring filmmaker, and, as you’ve guessed, is newly single. The film follows Astor’s misadventures back into singledom and the dating game, addressing the struggles he has with how much modern dating has changed since he was last involved.
For a film on an incredibly small budget (in our interview with Adam, he mentioned his budget was as small as $15,000), it certainly doesn’t look like a cheap production. There are a lot of features immediately in its opening credits – a proper ’60s and ’70s throwback of an opening credits sequence – that defy its budget, giving it a true indie film feel. This travels right through the rest of the film as it’s shot confidently with nice cinematography and strategic camera placements to present the themes of the film front and centre, without skimping on making a shot look good. On one of Astor’s countless dates, him and his date Francine (Rémy Bennett), head to an amateur theatre, and quite literally within ten seconds of this scene, I said aloud “This is like Annie Hall.” It’s evident Clark has taken a lot of inspiration from Woody Allen in this film, given the nature of his character and his activities.
The camera plays an important role as the film progresses. As we get to know Astor and the women he is courting, there is a definite disconnect occurring between us and him. Astor begins to leave the room and the frames more often, but the camera never goes with him. The camera remains rooted on its female characters, inviting us to see what Astor’s behaviour is doing to them rather than Astor’s behaviour itself. In one memorable long-take, Madeleine (Anna Jacoby-Heron) stays on the sofa as Astor goes to get something to impress her (I won’t spoil it, it’s a great scene, it deserves to be seen for the full experience). Madeleine uses this time to adjust herself, show off her cleavage a little more, apply some lipstick, prepare herself for what she hopes is some intimacy. It’s showing her perspective, her expectations for the evening without saying a word, and shows this in a very realistic fashion.
The realistic side of things is something Clark seems keen on focusing. Newly Single is a very authentic approach to dating culture in the 21st century, addressing the complex relationships between men and women. All of this stems from Astor and who he is. He’s someone who is evidently in a bad place because of his recent break up (something that’s still on-going and a very ugly situation to find himself in), and whether intentionally or not, he takes it out on the women he meets in increasingly ugly fashion. He vents his frustration in frequently disastrous ways, and when he eventually finds something good—I felt his relationship with the aforementioned Francine was the best for him because of their equally self-destructive tendencies—he finds ways to destroy it because he is an innate self-sabotager. It’s interesting to watch a take on relationships and intentional isolation in this form.
What really struck me about the film was how confident it felt. It, like its central character, felt like a director with a clear vision of what he wanted this film to be, and committed to that despite the abundance of unbearable sequences on show. It has the confidence to linger in the discomfort, show someone so willingly self destructive, and present an unflinching look at what is, for the most part, toxic masculinity on the part of Astor.
Newly Single is an interesting, darkly funny look at what dating is like today and it’s going to be relatable to a lot of people as much as it may be hard to take at times. It carries some great performances. For instance, Jennifer Kim’s Izzy is going to leave a strong impression on you as it did on me. The film boasts a surprisingly good indie rock soundtrack and confident cinematography to present its themes in raw, unwavering long takes. Adam Christian Clark looks like a name to keep an eye on.
Directed by: Adam Christian Clark
Starring: Adam Christian Clark, Jennifer Kim, Molly C. Quinn, Raychel Diane Weiner