In Sophia Takal’s Green, a crunchy granola couple from New York City moves to the country so he, Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine), can write a series of articles for a blog and she, Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), can enjoy nature and read Bataille. Instead of peace, quite, and mosquito bites, they’re greeted by country-girl Robin (Takal), the nosy housemate they didn’t realize they had. What begins as an awkward misunderstanding ends up unsettling the couple’s relationship as Robin’s simplicity (she loves Sudoku and doesn’t know what installation art is) goes from irritating to uncannily attractive.
Actually more nuanced than its press notes suggest (“a haunting examination of the female psyche”), Green works as a tale of the losses and gains that can come from that which we cannot account for, namely the chasm between the planned trip and the trip actually experienced. Sebastian and Genevieve’s fetishized notion of making contact with the rawness of the land comes crashing down as soon as they step foot in it. He can’t even lay down the foundation to be able to plant things, precisely the subject of his would-be writings. She seems incapable of profiting off of boredom. It’s also a story about cultural shock in which the cosmopolitan Brooklynites prove to be way less open to alterity and more ill-equipped to deal with the unknown than the yapping redneck who’s curious about everything. In Green, big-city smartness works great for dinner-party namedropping (“He is better than Proust”), but it quickly becomes a victim of the general repulsion/fascination that can arise from the company of actual strangers.
While Sebastian claims Robin is just a blur to him, “an out-of-focus image,” Genevieve can’t help but see the girl as a mesmerizing threat. She both dreads and fantasizes about Robin having sex with Sebastian in the woods, or perhaps with herself. It’s never quite clear if the danger that Robin poses to coupledom is unwitting or intentional, but there’s a cloud of impending betrayal and unpredictable sex that hovers over the entire film—like the cloud in John Rechy’s novel Numbers, which keeps bringing its characters back to the same outdoor spaces where they cruise one another ad infinitum precisely because the imagined otherness never lives up to otherness one can actually touch.
In Green, Takal smartly never allows for the cloud to become a tempest, choosing the dignity of ambiguity instead. The mumblecore dialogue (for example, several minutes on the idiosyncrasies of ice cream) can be annoying, but along with the excellent score, it actually serves this tense haziness well. Not much actually happens, which drives Genevieve crazy. All we know is that Robin’s strangeness is only a threat to the extent that it awakens Genevieve’s.