AUSTIN, Texas — Actor Tom Cullen made his directorial debut at SXSW 2019 Saturday with the premiere of "Pink Wall."
During the Q&A that followed, one of the film's lead actors, Jay Duplass ("Transparent," "Room 104"), said to the crowd, "I think we're witnessing the first day of a long career."
If "Pink Wall" is any indication, Duplass is right.
It's a film about two young people – played by Duplass and Cullen's real-life partner, Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black") – falling in and out of love.
But, even more so, it's a film about gender politics and what the world expects of men and women in work, at home, at a dinner party. About how you can love another person so much, but still feel like part of you is dying. And about how if you don't communicate with other people, you can't accomplish anything.
Cullen and Co. made "Pink Wall' for around £100,000 (or about $130,170), in nine days. Those facts shine throughout the film. There's an intimacy, an urgency to it that reflects a cast and crew that had to get close fast. As Cullen told the crowd, there was a, "We've just gotta do this" energy during production, and as a viewer, you can feel it.
Narratively, "Pink Wall" is about two characters that will feel very familiar. You've met them in real life. They love each other fiercely, and they hate each other, too. You hope they stay in love, but you want them to break up.
The on-screen chemistry between Duplass and Maslany, especially as their characters first fall in love, is undeniable. The off-screen chemistry between Cullen and Maslany is as well. This is a film about love made by people in love.
"I think the best art comes straight from the gut and the heart. And I wanted to spew it all out there," Cullen said after the film.
He said he wanted to make a film that reflected how relationships evolve and how people can evolve independently, even if they're in a relationship. He used non-linear storytelling because people don't remember relationships chronologically, or even always exactly how they happened. He experimented with style – switching up aspect ratios for different years; using different focuses and framing to convey moods – to make a film that felt real.
And it does.
When you finish watching "Pink Wall," you won't feel contented. But you will feel moved.