An Oversimplification of Her Beauty retraces love lost, or which may have never existed, in the most artistic of ways.
Review (with Spoilers)
This is another one of those films which I solely found out about by being a subscriber to Shadow and Act. Like many films I find out about on the site, there are no well-known names amongst the cast or even those behind the scenes. Albeit, some of the producers may have recognizable names, like ?uestlove, but outside of that, you find yourself solely drawn to raw talent, which for this film, seems more refined than Writer/ Director/ Actor’s Terence Nance’s filmography would hint to.
Characters & Story
The film itself is very much like a visual novel about Terence Nance’s adventures with love. It uses various film styles in order to help us visualize this, all with a poetic rhythm using two voiceovers. Things start though with a simple story of a young man prepping his home for a lady who is to spend the night but, when she cancels, we are asked: “How Would You Feel?” From there, the film seems to go into a loop with additional details added each time the story is retold. This is because the movie seems to be a combination of a short film and possible full-length movie to compose the narrative.
As a whole, though, the movie is about Nance’s various love affairs leading to the complications of the most recent one in the film. It explores his, sometimes, lack of emotional depth past the superficial, and how this leads to ill decisions. Perhaps the film, if stripped down, is almost like a warning or self-help guide. One in which a person is warned about being emotionally distant, not speaking on your own feelings and Nance is the one showing you all the negative effects from either waiting or keeping your mouth shut.
“[…] you are not chronically lonely but the vast majority of your days and nights are spent alone. All the same usually because you are very busy. Busy with finishing your education, so that you can finish knowing who you are, so that you can finish with those years in life during which you have no clear answer to the question: What do you do?”
“Generally speaking, with a few notable exceptions, those that desire your company do not interest you in a way that would provoke you to set aside time to engage them. Those that do interest you, those for whom you would manufacture time, do not live in your vicinity, or do not seem so interested in you as you in them.”
“You marvel at the contradiction between the intensity of your love for her and your in ability to accurately express this same love. You wonder aloud when you will grow different and occasionally allow yourself to wallow in this gingerly debilitating self-doubt.”
“Your relationship is now augmented with quotation marks to illustrate the fragility and moral destitution of the situation.”
“I felt him looking at me. It’s what happens with boys like him. Less said, more felt. He was bad at that look exchange game. You always know when they are looking your way, when if you return the look, they are looking directly the other way. The smooth ones either keep looking at you, or subtly divert their eyes. Boys like him turn away because they can imagine you being wherever they are looking.”
“[…] Our interaction amounted to glances. Portions of fractions of seconds that inspired those unfortunately girly, vivid daydreams that we tend to get when someone of consequence invades our sight line. Meeting to growing to marriage to family, only a moment in real life, but a lifetime in my mind.”
“It occurred to me that at some point, he’s going to get me. ”
“[…] realism, pessimism, and cynicism are so much safer than the alternatives. You avoid disappointment by not indulging in your yet to be experienced desires. But you do disable your dreams in so doing. Their nature is a cause-and-effect thing. You must free them to work on you, and only then will they oblige you and come true.”
“Unfortunately, you have not mastered the art of sustaining platonic arrangements in the midst of extreme romantic attraction. All of the rationale you formulate to explain her current disinterest in you is simply a way of ignoring your many faults. The armor of stoicism you wear when you are in love.”
“I would never leave, but I am shrinking.”
“[…] you often miss things you never had.”
“The gesture is more loaded than the content.”
“Emotional memory is your memory of how you felt as opposed to what happened.”
What I like best about the film is that though Nance provides a beautiful vision by using animation and live action, you could just as well close your eyes and experience this beautiful story. Focusing on the eyes wide open approach, though, it is visually beautiful, especially when it comes to the animation. To me, it seems a lot of the styles a film student would learn are experimented with and with the animation you can see the most time and effort, and I would dare say the animation pieces are perhaps the best part of the film visually.
Also, I quite like how the overall story didn’t fit a natural progression. Though easily this could be seen as an artistic romance film, it does try to dig deeper than that. It has a good amount of reflection which creates interesting ideas and thoughts and said thoughts do make you want to have a conversation about what Nance wrote in the picture. Lastly, I feel I must note that while not the hugest fan, or one who fully understands, the beauty of cinematography, it is hard to not find beauty in the way the actors were shot and not find it to be as poetic as the words spoken throughout the film.
When it comes to criticism, I do feel that any critiques I can come up with would be nitpicking. The reason I say this is when you first start the film you can find reasons to dislike it, but as you begin to understand how the story is going to be told you adapt. For example, at first, I didn’t like the looping style of the film in which we kept going back to the moment we are asked “How Would You Feel” for it added only a handful of details and then we were back at that point. As time went on, though, the style grows on you, and largely any issue I had was something I grew to adapt to and even like. Another example would be how we are introduced to Nance’s exes. Many of them seem like random names or faces, but then the movie loops and provides more information and though this could be annoying or counterproductive to some, I find after watching the film to understand it and find it to be quite an interesting way of telling the story.
Overall: Rental/ VOD
Just the amount of effort in the film, especially those animation scenes, are what drives me to recommend this. Though admittedly the plot isn’t as straightforward as some may like, I find this sort of character analysis to be quite brilliant. I won’t say it is for everyone since it does require an open mind, to a point, but for those willing and able to find this movie, I do think you should rent it or watch it on Video on Demand. I won’t say it is life changing, but I am left with my own feelings of reflection in such a way where I’m looking over my notes and wondering some things about how I lived my life thus far.