★★★☆☆ In his debut feature, director Chad Murdock explores the ways that memory and selfhood intersect in this enigmatic, personal drama. In its surreal rendering of space and character, Fingers in the Wind offers enough ambition, intelligence and unvarnished authenticity to warrant recommendation.

★★★☆☆

In his debut feature, director Chad Murdock explores the ways that memory and selfhood intersect in this enigmatic, personal drama. In its surreal rendering of space and character, Fingers in the Wind offers enough ambition, intelligence and unvarnished authenticity to warrant recommendation.

In her New York apartment, Naya (Maya Holliday) has just told her best friend Faye (Taylor Brianna) that she no longer wants to see her. For years, she tells her, they have been trapped in a co-dependent relationship and their friendship has degenerated into mutual emotional exploitation. Shocked and in denial, Faye leaves and finds herself in a park, mistaking a young man holding a bunch of flowers for her old friend, Kenny (Azendé Kendale Johnson). The mistaken identity gives rise to a conversation and the pair spend the rest of the day together as Faye reveals more about her past and the formative adolescent experience that she once shared with Kenny and Naya.

As the unnamed young man and Faye explore the city, Murdock’s camera is almost always locked down, occasionally pushing in or panning by only the slightest of degrees and usually only during emotionally heightened moments. Brad Nelson’s digital cinematography emphasises a subdued palette, but far from feeling drab, the film’s greys and whites construct spaces that feel constructed more of light than bricks, its occupants more spectral than corporeal.

Muted sound design and a peculiar editing style further elicit a sense of dreamlike surrealism. Indeed, as times scenes become borderline soporific; Faye and her companion’s conversations become increasingly difficult to follow as names and identities seems to shift around and past memories are conflated with seemingly present reality. Takes are often drawn out awkwardly, such as the waiter who drops a tray, stares at it for an age, fetches a broom and then after clearing up stares straight into the camera. The effect is incredibly strange, a mundane detail from waking life, lodged somewhere in the unconscious only to re-emerge warped and distorted in the dreamspace of sleep. As Faye navigates her day which finally culminates in the room that she once shared with Kenny and Naya, it becomes increasingly clear that the space she occupies and the figures therein are entirely psychological.

In this psycho-realm, Murdock refuses allow us to wake and thus to escape Faye’s warped interiority for the comfort of objective reality. Yet with that refusal comes a degree of frustration, not with the film’s ambiguity, but the depth of its grappling with memory and self. Nevertheless, Fingers in the Wind is an ambitious, uncompromising and intriguing feature, bolstered by studied, dreamlike performances from a tiny, captivating cast. It will be interesting to see how Fingers in the Wind plays out on the festival circuit if it makes it there; either way, Murdock may well be one to watch in coming years.

Christopher Machell