ManIFF 2015: Sidewalk Traffic - Cinema Review

'in the film's strongest moments, Fisher explores a discourse between Dalia's practicality and Declan's artistic ambition'

Sidewalk Traffic fits into the growing sub-genre of films that cover the events and aftermath of the 2008 fiscal crisis, not by virtue of explaining what happened or providing answers, but by showing some 'on the ground' context. Arbitrage dramatised the general culture which needed to fester in business for the crash to happen, but managed to personalise it. This film shows the affect on young burgeoning professionals, who are very suddenly told that affluence is no given.

In this case, Anthony L. Fisher's film presents Declan (Johnny Hopkins) and Dalia (Erin Darke), who are struggling to find their feet and raise their young child in post-crash New York. After several 'nearly' moments, Declan is finding it difficult to get a film off the ground, whilst Dalia faces the prospect of returning to work and saying goodbye to her baby.

In the film's strongest moments, Fisher explores a discourse between Dalia's practicality and Declan's artistic ambition. At a point where his film looks set to succeed, Dalia wonders quite how they are both going to work full time with a child, whilst Declan berates her for not celebrating his success. There's a tension the film never quite resolves around Declan's masculinity: him being a stay-at-home Dad is often seen within the film as a weakness. It's difficult to see if this is the film's point of view or Declan's, but, either way, the un-needed crisis of confidence, post crash, does have a place in the conversation, even if it could be presented in a more comfortable way, that doesn't occasionally seem to back Declan's near-misogyny. At times, it feels as though we are being told he should be seen as a hero, just because he is willing to look after his child.

Sidewalk Traffic is occasionally held back by some clich├ęd elements that you feel a 'bullshit pass' at the script may have eliminated. Most annoyingly, Declan spends time talking to a departed friend, on the banks of the Hudson, tipping alcohol into the river from a brown bag. Anyone who has ever actually done this should report themselves for ennui correction training immediately. His recollection of a time his friend 'finger-banged that girl in our dorm room' does not add to the poetry of the moment. Elsewhere, the opening shots where Dalia claims he has not said that he loves their child similarly do not ring true and the whole set up of Declan in the film industry occasionally becomes glibly annoying. This would have been far more down to Earth had he been a graphic designer say, or any other job it is easier for the general viewing public to relate to.

Hopkins and Darke are impressive, carrying the script's weaker moments with just the right outpourings of emotion. The latter sometimes gets thankless tasks and turns them into believable responses, the former has the advantage of looking like the lovechild of Jared Leto and Charlie Hunnam, and being able to sell a husky whisper. Both could really go far.

If they could have had a little more support - Declan's supposedly firebrand producer and potential Russian backer aren't as funny as they need to be - then this could have been something more. As it is, it's still a good look at capitalist entitlement and the realities of such, as well as being a reasonable showcase for all involved. I left feeling happy that I'd managed to fit it into my festival schedule.

Manchester International Film Festival runs from 10th - 12th July 2015 at the AMC Manchester Great Northern Warehouse. More details are available on the ManIFF website.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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