In April, when Exit Elena (2010) and Soft in the Head (2013) were playing in New York, we posted an all-round entry on Nathan Silver. He was hard at work on Stinking Heaven (on May 9, the Kickstarter campaign achieved its goal), but Uncertain Terms was already in the can. Now Silver’s fourth feature has seen its world premiere in Los Angeles and its international premiere in Edinburgh.
Last week, Sarah Salovaara interviewed Silver for Filmmaker, noting that he “may be a premature embodiment of Fassbinder’s creed that ‘Every decent director has only one subject and finally only makes the same film over and over again,’ but Uncertain Terms feels more patient in execution than its predecessors, mirroring the bucolic enclave which houses a bevy of relatively serene pregnant teens. Robbie (David Dahlbom) arrives in the Hudson Valley to offer a helping hand at his [aunt Carla’s] boarding house, played by Nathan’s mother Cindy Silver in a bit of intertextual casting. He may have come for peace of mind, but soon Robbie is unwittingly stirring up trouble with Nina (India Menuez), her baby daddy Chase (Casey Drogin) and the deluded Jean (Tallie Medel).”
Paul Sbrizzi at Hammer to Nail: “The core of the film is the contrasting mentality between Carla’s grounded Earth Mother and the young people she tries to take care of, who are crippled by a kind of black and white thinking characteristic of Nathan Silver’s characters—this time manifesting in the love-you-hate-you polarities of romance.”
“What’s fascinating about the scenario here is that in someways it could read like an updated, Americanized, Grimm’s Fairy Tale,” finds Ben Umstead at Twitch. “There’s a serenity yet somewhat gleefully dark if solemn bent to the film.” Each of Silver’s films “links to the next in obvious or subtle ways: Silver’s Cassavetes-like approach to storytelling, his penchant for female protagonists and humor derived from increasingly awkward situations; his themes of wayward youth, alternative families and community. And of course there’s his consistent casting of his effervescent mother Cindy. And then there’s that ability to cultivate a small filmmaking community, to make these low-budget, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants home-style movies that just keep getting richer and more rewarding.”
“Despite its trim 74-minute running time, Silver takes a patient approach to explore the prevalent anxieties gradually threatening to overwhelm his characters,” writes Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “The serene, woodsy backdrop lends an introspective quality to the narrative, underscoring the ensemble’s disconnect from the world of responsibilities hovering just off-frame.”
“Silver’s script, co-written with Chloe Domont and cinematographer-editor Cody Stokes, practically begs the question why an experienced caregiver like Carla would invite a seemingly single, somewhat attractive man into a home full of hyper-hormonal teenagers with baby-daddy issues, even if he is related to her,” writes Justin Lowe in the Hollywood Reporter. “Such a deliberate setup is by design intended to create emotional conflict, so it’s perhaps fortuitous that the plot doesn’t become even more contrived than it starts off.”
“Uneasy, uncomfortable, and certainly uncertain, familiar scenarios, for better or worse, never quite develop as you’d assume in Silver’s films.” 3.5 out of 5 stars from Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema. And a B+ from Katie Walsh at the Playlist, where she calls Uncertain Terms “a wry, oddly funny, but poignant work that showcases Silver’s laid-back but effective cinematic storytelling style, and talent for shaping performances from non-traditional actors.”
For Stephen Saito, this is “Silver’s most accomplished film to date…. Uncertain Terms freely wields the confrontational edge that has made Silver’s films such as Exit Elena and Soft in the Head so compelling to watch in recent years, yet the filmmaker is able to invite audiences in to a greater degree with a story that proves as dynamic as the characters he and the actors create. Silver may have made a habit of documenting characters with shaky futures ahead, but judging by his latest, he knows where he’s going, even if it’s thrillingly uncharted territory.”
Update, 6/20: Nigel M. Smith talks with Silver for Indiewire.
Update, 6/22: At Twitch, Valentina I. Valentini talks with Cindy Silver “about her son, about herself, about filmmaking and about the life of a filmmaker’s mother.”