If Sundance gave a prize to Most Original Film at each year’s festival, “Love, Ludlow” would come in dead last. It would be behind the comedy about the 23-year-old slacker who doesn’t know what to do with his life and the drama about the girl who experiments with lesbianism. “Love, Ludlow” is a lightweight comedy about a young woman whose responsibilities caring for her mentally challenged adult brother have prevented her from having a life of her own. The film was shot on a shoestring budget in New York and has “quirky” characters and a whimsical indie-pop musical score.
But what it also has is its heart in the right place, not to mention very likable performances from its trio of lead characters. The film’s missteps early on try one’s patience, but there are rewards in seeing it through to the end.
Myra (Alicia Goranson) is a 20-something Queens girl who has had to care for her brother Ludlow (Brendan Sexton III) ever since their mother died five years ago. Ludlow’s specific impairment is never mentioned, but we know he’s about 20 years old, very smart in some ways (he quotes Shakespeare often), artistic, and has the emotional capacity of about a 6-year-old. He stays in the apartment all day while Myra works as an office temp. She doesn’t have to worry while she’s gone, because Ludlow is terrified of leaving the apartment alone.
Myra, perhaps hardened by these years of responsibility, is grumpy and serious when it comes to men, refusing to be wooed by anyone, usually shooting them down with a withering glare and a sharply worded dismissal. A man in her office, a shy but friendly loner named Reggie (David Eigenberg), persists, and wins a date with her. They hit it off, his meekness balancing out her gruffness (which slowly melts anyway). But Ludlow, wanting Myra all to himself, feels threatened by this outsider.
David Paterson’s script (based on his play “Fingerpainting in a Murphybed”) rushes through some of the character development, with Reggie becoming confident way too fast and bonding with Ludlow too quickly (literally overnight!). The direction and cinematography (by Adrienne J. Weiss and Ruben O’Malley, respectively) are troublesome in the first half, too, with some shots framed poorly and others not matching where they’re supposed to. (For example, characters in a restaurant talk to the waiter by looking to the right of the frame, but when we cut to the waiter, he’s on the left.)
Those sorts of mistakes bespeak amateurishness, but looking beyond them, we see a very mature, well-written story unfolding. Alicia Goranson, best known as the oldest daughter on “Roseanne,” pulls off a flawless Queens accent while delivering an honest, emotionally realistic performance. Myra is more conflicted than anything else, wanting to care for her brother as much as she wants to live her own life and be free of him. The ups and downs she endures in that struggle are very realistically (and often comically) portrayed by Goranson.
Likewise, Eigenberg presents Reggie as a sympathetic loner whom the viewer wants to succeed. It’s apparent by the film’s halfway point that Reggie and Myra don’t just want to be together; they actually NEED each other for emotional survival. You want them to work through the obstacle that is Ludlow and find a way to be happy together.
The film is a solid early effort from the filmmakers, and it shows some promise. The laughs are not of the gut-busting variety, but the film does make you smile a lot.
B- (1 hr., 26 min.; )