Nathan Silver co-writes, directs, produces, and stars in Exit Elena. But he saves that fourth job for this mid-length feature’s third act. The person in charge of carrying the movie when it comes to the acting front in his co-writer Kia Davis. She plays Elena Petrovic, the titular character, a second generation Serbian-American working as a live in nurse assistant for Florence Akerman. At first, Elena follows her job to the letter, including wearing a uniform. But her bosses and Florence’s son and daughter in law Jim and Cindy (Jim Chiros and Cindy Silver) want change. They want to drop the formalities between employer and employee.
Elena starts getting invitations to do stuff with Cindy. As Elena becomes a reluctant part of this dysfunctional family, the camera finds her. Davis and her face, reminiscent of Golden Age stars. She does her best and mostly succeeds in expressing the confusion that one feels in perpetually navigating their new situation. Sometimes though, the movie gives the family a break and gives a spotlight to her experience of looking out into the world. There’s a scene here before she goes on a date where she hangs around in front of a coffee shop. A place where she previously has an awkward experience with a barista.
Exit Elena then, hints at a portrait of a strange lady. Davis, through her acting and co-writing, plant seeds but it sometimes take too long for those seeds to develop into something. And I belong in the minority who feels as if the longer I wait, the more likely for the plot to develop into anything at all. Cindy and Elena turn into drinking buddies. Maybe that kind of friendship makes them learn something about each other. And sure, inter class friendship as a teachable moment is something that boring movies end up doing, so Exit decides not to do that.
However, Exit Elena feels like it doesn’t argue that anti-moral position successfully. It also doesn’t sell class guilt well. Davis and Nathan Silver the director eventually introduce the latter as Nathan, who exists in this story to sexually harass Elena. What Nathan Silver is trying to do here is to be a more grating version of himself. This is something that a lot of white male North American indie directors of the past decade are doing. This is a bad example of that. Maybe seeing this as a thesis on class guilt is a misinterpretation, but if the movie isn’t about that it doesn’t feel like it’s about anything else.
Exit Elena comes soon on OVID.