‘Layover’, the Discovery of a Hidden Gem

This time of year most everyone in the film world is talking about Oscar contenders, movies like BoyhoodBirdman, and Selma, which get more press each week as awards season marches on. However, I’m here today to provide a recommendation for a film you likely haven’t heard of, which you can check out right now on VOD. The film is called Layover, and it is an impressive high-concept drama that took me completely by surprise.

The first outing from writer-director Joshua CaldwellLayover is very much in the vein of Richard Linklater‘s Before trilogy. Driven not by traditional plot mechanics but by the characters we see on screen and the way they interact with the world around them, Caldwell’s primarily French-language film centers on a Parisian woman named Simone (Nathalie Fay) as she navigates the city of Los Angeles for a night after her connecting flight to Singapore is cancelled.

Layover unspools its narrative by revealing its main character to us one scene at a time. Simone is hardly an open book when the film begins, but by its final frame we understand where she comes from and where she is heading. The primary question we are left with is, “Is this the right decision?”, and I think this question will garner a variety of interesting responses. No matter your take, however, this film is a knockout. Simple and assured, Layover deserves some attention, and at only 80 minutes long it shouldn’t have any problem holding yours.

The film opens with Simone peering out an airplane window and examining the city beneath her, the bright lights of skyscrapers illuminating her view. The plane lands and the film’s score kicks in as she makes her way from the terminal to her hotel room. She stops outside and takes a couple drags off a cigarette, the nicotine soothing her anxiety as she waits for the shuttle. Once at the hotel she ambles through the lobby, the camera following her as she heads to her room. After a phone call to her boyfriend, Simone opts to go out for the night, and with that the film is set in motion.

In addition to Linklater’s Before films, Layover bears resemblance to the Polish drama Ida, one of the year’s best-reviewed releases. Both are about women who embark on journeys that lead them to consider the courses they’ve set for themselves and the possibilities life has to offer. Ultimately, the main characters in each discover that life becomes limited only by the decisions we make, but these decisions are integral in shaping our journey.

Though Layover explores deep and complex themes, it is an incredibly intimate production. Inspired by articles about Edward Burns‘ (Newlyweds) micro-budget projects, Caldwell made his film for a whopping $6,000, a fact made even more impressive once you’ve seen the movie. Visually, Layover is a magnificent representation of nighttime Los Angeles, reminiscent of films like Michael Mann‘s Collateral and Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler. Caldwell and director of photography William Wolffe capture the city in a really gorgeous way, especially when you consider how little this film cost.

Like most independent debuts, Layover is filled with little-known actors, Bella DayneKarl E. Landler, and Hal Ozsan chief among them. The most notable member of the cast, for me, is star Nathalie Fay, who plays Simone. The name won’t likely ring a bell, but her face should jog your memory. She had a small role in The Hangover as Lisa, the receptionist who informs Alan their hotel is not “the real Caesar’s Palace.” Fay was charming there, but she is truly captivating here. Warm and congenial, she has a glowing smile and a sweet sparkle in her eyes that draw you in to her character from the film’s very first frames.

Layover had its world premiere in May at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), where it screened in competition and was nominated for the New American Cinema Award. It even played at my local film festival in Scottsdale back in October, but I didn’t know about it then. I only became aware of Layover through David Chen of Slashfilm, who signed on as a producer after seeing the film at SIFF and has been promoting it on Twitter ever since. The trailer quickly captured my attention, so I took a chance and purchased the movie, and, well, here we are.

If there’s one thing in life I enjoy more than anything else, it is the act of discovering something and sharing it with others. From hip coffee shops to catchy songs and moving films, I’m sure my friends get a little tired of my recommendations, the links, videos, and status updates I share that inundate their news feeds. But when I discover something I like or enjoy, I want to share it with people. I want others to have an opportunity to experience what I did, to be affected in a similar way. I love when someone reaches out and thanks me for making a recommendation, not because I seek affirmation for such things but because doing so allows me to connect with the world around me.

So with that, I encourage you to check out Layover. It is fantastic, and it’s one of my favorite films of the year, even if it isn’t eligible for all these prestigious year-end awards. I’ve included two trailers for the film below, and if you’re interested you can rent the film ($2.95) or purchase it ($4.95) at LayoverFilm.com.


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