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Fail to Appear

wilder · 1 · 613

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on: November 23, 2018, 02:21:46 AM

Isolde is a caseworker adjusting to the challenges of her new job when she is assigned to a man who is charged with theft and facing an upcoming court hearing. She does her best to help, but when the two meet she struggles to connect.

Written and Directed by Antoine Bourges
Release Date - TBD

Quote from: Letterboxd user Jake Cole
An extreme introvert attempts to work in a field demanding personable attitude due to a misplaced faith in her empathy, yet her emotional distance makes her ironically suited to the paperwork-intensive, callously clinical nature of the actual job. Compositions lock characters in off-white states of arrested development, and dealings with both admins and courts show the limits of a national health care service for matters that lack easy cures.

Quote from: Letterboxd user Michael Sicinski
This quiet little gem of a movie is like the tragicomic underside to numerous Frederick Wiseman docs, ones like Welfare in which he shows the diligence and uphill battles and low-key heroism of civil servants and NGO employees. Here, we watch as everybody does their best but it amounts to less than nothing. Fail to Appear asks us to spend time with an inexperienced social worker (Deragh Campbell) who exudes empathy -- and arguably crosses some personal boundaries -- but is simply not very good at her job. She exemplifies the fecklessness of liberalism, attempting to embody a civic ideal by placing herself where she is just temperamentally unsuited to be.

After a few false starts (including one client who notes that she has forgotten to get him on the waitlist for a drug treatment center), Isolde (Campbell) is teamed with Eric (Nathan Roder), a man being held for a shoplifting charge. Her job is to offer him support, make sure he has what he needs to gain stability and meet the terms of his probation. But when, for example, Eric says that he will meet with the judge only if he feels like it, Isolde hems and haws, offering to get the dates shifted around to accommodate this near-drifter's "schedule."

What writer-director Antoine Bourges (East Hastings Pharmacy) showcases above all else in Fail to Appear is the sad result when two cripplingly awkward individuals are thrust together by a system that only needs to insure that everybody can be said to have gotten a leg-up. After all, if and when Eric returns before the judge on another charge, it will be noted that, after all, he had a social worker at his disposal. Why didn't he take advantage of this opportunity?

Isolde is clearly bright, and above all she is practically bursting with the desire to help. She just can't break through Eric's wall of diffidence, most likely because she has not been trained but also because she possesses no natural people skills. Eric, who has never lived on his own and seems only barely functional as an adult, is probably on the autism spectrum, but there is no way to really know. What we can see is that he feels invisible ("I took things out of the package so they'd notice me") and it is Isolde's duty to make him feel seen.

For now, without even the most basic playbook to rely on, she is caught in her own loop of self-consciousness. At one point, Isolde explains that she decided to become a social worker because she didn't know what to do with her lit degree, and she is fascinated by characters and stories. Her hope was that this interest would translate to the real world and its characters. What she finds instead is Eric, a man content to simply lie there on the page. Life requires active readers, and Isolde just keeps losing her place.

Quote from: Letterboxd user Devon Scott
An essential depiction of the tragedy at the heart of mental illness and the limitations of support networks.