The benefit of being young is that, seemingly, we have all the time to grow old. We have all the time to make mistakes and meet new people until one day we realize that things don’t change that much and what we need to survive isn’t always the same as what we need to live. Blue Jay is a film about two people rediscovering the charge of their youth while on the precipice of middle age. The film chronicles the twenty-four hours after ex-lovers Amanda (Sarah Paulson) and Jim (Mark Duplass) meet again for the first time in twenty-two years, in an aisle of their hometown grocery store. Amanda is back caring for her pregnant sister and Jim is organizing the affairs of his recently deceased mother. The pair probe the changes that have occurred in one another’s lives and explore the fragments of what their romance once held. This isn’t a film concerned with getting to a destination or fine tuning a point but instead insists upon each of its scenes a vivacity of the youth the characters once shared.
Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass (who wrote the screenplay) deliver utterly compelling performances. They articulate so many nuances that aren’t just found in love but deep friendships; embodying, in almost every moment of the film, a very lived in past. The actors are always pulling double duty with characters who are both trying to reclaim a close relationship and trying keep one another at a formal distance. Never once does a flashback of the pair as teenagers feel like a missing, necessary component to understanding what their relationship was like because they show it so vividly in the way they collectively remember and relive it.
Duplass imbues the details of his script with a dodgy sort of poignancy; never on the nose but just out of reach. Alex Lehmann’s monochromatic shots of gnats rising above the tree line of early morning and abandoned saw mills in a shady drama give the film hints of the cinematic, and places these people in a larger more imposing world. Almost like a compulsion, Jim and Amanda can’t resist reading old love letters, rapping to their favorite song, and reenacting an old tape where they mock their future selves. In the way we fetishize nostalgia now, it’s impossible to say we would resist the opportunity to resurrect the past, if for even a second it came with the promise of momentary solace in the present.