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Breaking Upwards

A Difficult Split

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

It was an experiment of real-life couple Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein that inspired them to make a film. Feeling the ennui of a longtime relationship, they methodically plan their breakup. Directed by Wein, and made with almost no budget, Breaking Upwards is a realistic view of two people who still love each other but feel the need to escape the confines of their relationship. It’s a film for the Final Cut age of filmmaking with Wein and Lister-Jones creating an honest, heartfelt film.

Inspired by their real relationship, Zoe is a struggling actress and Daryl is a struggling writer. The camera follows the two through their New York lives — her attending futile auditions and him babysitting during the days. The two have hit a rut and decide they need a change.

Not wanting to break up permanently, they create “days off” where they don’t see or talk to each other. But as any real couple knows, creating rules only makes things more difficult. Despite their intention for an open relationship they are both riddled with jealousy, nervousness, and confusion.

The film really succeeds at creating an accurate portrayal of the different relationships in the film. It has a mumblecore quality with dialogue that would normally seem, for a lack of a better word, cheesy but comes across as realistic. The best moments happen between the parents of Zoe and Daryl. Daryl’s parents live in Manhattan and have what he perceives to be a dysfunctional relationship. His mother, Joanie (Julie White) edges on eccentric but Daryl has a playful rapport with her that paints the picture of a boy transitioning into an adult.

Zoe’s mother, on the other hand, Helaine (Andrea Martin) couldn’t be more opposite. Living in Brooklyn and the steady supplier of pot for the couple, she’s more of a friend than a mentor. Even Daryl has his own separate relationship with her, which only complicates his prospective breakup with Zoe. Not only are they breaking up with each other, but also with their families.

Breaking Upwards isn’t a knockout but it has a solid core many shoestring indies fail to create. It’s a wandering film devoid of the “classic” plot but still hangs together thanks to a solid script by Lister-Jones, Wein, and friend Peter Duchan that understands what it’s attempting to capture.