'Chestnut' - City of Sisterly Love

"Chestnut" via IMDb.

“Chestnut” (Utopia), possibly named for the street in Philadelphia’s ritzy Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, is the feature-length debut by writer/director Jac Cron. Like a queer version of mumblecore – call it mumblequeer – “Chestnut” is about the last days recent college grad Annie (Natalia Dyer of “Stranger Things” fame) spends in Philly before leaving for L.A. and her first post-grad job.

Right from the start, we can sense Annie’s hesitation about leaving even before she tells her friend Jason (trans actor Chella Man) that she still hasn’t bought the tickets for her flight. Jason, on the other hand, has no plans to return to Alabama, choosing to stay in Philly, the only place that has ever felt like home to him.

Later, in a bar, Annie meets Tyler (Rachel Keller) and Danny (Danny Ramirez), who both work at the upscale restaurant Friday Saturday Sunday. It’s not immediately clear if they’re a couple, especially since Tyler openly flirts with Annie, and admits to having kissed a couple of girls before. 

It doesn’t take long before vulnerable Annie hangs out regularly with Tyler and Danny. Her attraction to Tyler is also obvious, and neither Tyler nor Danny does anything to discourage it. Socializing with Tyler and Danny also involves a lot of time in bars, late nights, usually after they get off work. In other words, the alcohol consumption is measurable, and occasionally includes a cocaine chaser.

Annie seems eager to please Tyler and Danny, as well as their friends Connor (Caleb Eberhardt) and his ex, Alicia (Haniq Best). It’s good to have Connor around because he often supplies necessary comic relief (the picnic scene is a good example).

Phone calls with Annie’s widowed father increase the pressure on her to complete the necessary paperwork for her job in the finance sector. But she’s resistant, choosing instead to pine away for Tyler (the alcohol and drugs don’t help). By the time Annie confronts Tyler, it’s obvious things aren’t going Annie’s way. Especially when Tyler says something stupid, such as, “I love you, but I could never marry you.” What? And yet, Annie returns for more of this kind of treatment.

You don’t currently have to be a 20-something to relate to “Chestnut,” you do have to have been a 20-something at some point and can understand what being that age entails. This includes Annie’s misguided attempt at being an open mic poet. Additionally, the frustration that Annie feels with Tyler is so close to the surface that we can’t help but feel frustrated, too, which eventually works against the movie. 

Rating: B-


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