Synopsis: In INERTIA, the lives of four characters are sidetracked by desire into deception, adultery, and incest. Joseph cannot accept that Laura doesn’t want him anymore. Laura is infatuated with Joseph’s close (and married) friend, Bruce. Bruce finds himself attracted to Joseph’s nineteen-year-old cousin, Alex. Alex, on the other hand, has come to the city to move into Joseph’s, with ulterior motives…
eyelights: its quirkiness. its dark humour.
eyesores: its characters’ emotional instability.
“We are family; you don’t kiss your cousin.”
‘Inertia’ is the debut feature film by Sean Garrity, the director of ‘My Awkward Sexual Adventure‘. Released in 2001, it follows four young adults as they fall in unrequited love with one another and struggle with their careers.
A low budget Canadian picture, ‘Inertia’ was shot and is set in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There’s something about Canadian indie cinema that’s distinctive, and I was very fond of the vaguely familiar look and style of the picture.
What pulled me to the DVD, though, was its unusual DVD cover art and the Austin Chronicle quote: “Makes ‘Sex and the City’ look like the pay-cable romantic Nerf Ball that it is”. How could I not be intrigued by such a statement?
(Even if I don’t quite understand it.)
The picture begins abruptly, with a naked Joseph trying to convince Laura not to break up with him. They’ve been on hiatus before, for months on end, but she’d recently returned, even slept with him, stoking his romantic fires again.
Joseph is obsessed with her and remains in total denial. But Laura doesn’t love him. In fact, she’s been sleeping with other men this whole time – including his only friend, Bruce, whom he’s just reconnected with after a few years abroad.
Laura is obsessed with Bruce, but he’s married to Yumi. Unhappy in his relationship after years of partying and carousing, it doesn’t stop him from sleeping with Laura. But he really wants Alex instead, Joseph’s 19-year-old cousin.
Alex has moved to Winnipeg and has contrived to move in with Joseph. Concerned about her welfare, Joseph takes her under his wing. Despite the inconvenience. And being completely unaware of the fact that she has a crush on him…
It’s going to get complicated fast.
And funny, too.
What I liked most about ‘Inertia’ was its quirkyness. It’s all in Garrity’s little touches, in the way he presents the situations, starting with the way that we’re introduced to Joseph and Laura. It’s very awkward yet also amusing.
He does that throughout, in particular in the characters’ work lives:
Joseph works for the city’s water treatment facility and he’s tasked with trying to find the source of a recent contamination that’s causing outbreaks across Winnipeg. Garrity pits this neurotic man against a labyrinth of tunnels.
Laura is an atheist teacher working in a Catholic school for girls. She’s constantly at odds with the curriculum, which doesn’t educate students in sexual health, and her peers, who see her as a renegade – which she discreetly is.
Bruce works for an internet company and is in charge of troubleshooting. His days are mired by routine and by a socially autistic colleague who insists on recounting his sex life but refuses to listen to any of Bruce’s own stories.
Garrity also throws in a bunch of amusing inserts, either to illustrate what the characters are thinking, to set the stage or to add humour. These little blips add a charge to the film, punctuating the moments in unusual ways.
One thing I really enjoyed about ‘Inertia’ is the fact that, because it’s set in Winnipeg, there’s a mixture of English and French (though it’s mostly English); at school, Alex shifts to French to chat with some of her peers.
The picture is full of fun little bits, like seeing people freaking out at the PCs when they don’t work, seeing Joseph and Laura have a dialogue on either side of her apartment door, or holding a club scene with no dialogue, just music.
Garrity was clearly in a playful mood.
Ultimately, though, the picture is about the intermingling of these four characters and, though some of it can be uncomfortable due to their ill-fitting romantic aspirations, the conflicts that these create can sometimes be funny.
‘Inertia’ is about four people stuck in their lives and trying to find ways to shake it up. Though at first they all think that the answer lies in romantic relationships, they eventually realize that they need to make other changes.
It’s by no means a perfect film, and it certainly shows the limitations of its low budget, but ‘Inertia’ is creative enough to compensate for it. Ultimately, it’s wry and quirky enough for it to stand out from seemingly similar fare.
In an auspicious debut.
And I look forward to exploring Garrity’s oeuvre in the future.
Date of viewing: March 22, 2017