Everything Strange and New captures Wayne (the excellent Jerry McDaniel) as he begins to realize that the dream of heterosexual domesticity he bought into is not only a nightmare, but an existential farce. We watch, in slow camera pans, the detritus of a marriage stripped of its promises as it rots in the kitchen sink with the unwashed dishes. A bona fide blue-collar straight guy with the wife, kids, and drinking buddies to show, Wayne narrates his springing into consciousness, that love is a fiction and the happy hetero-normative family is an impossible project, as something that used to be very solid flounders.
The spousal silences, the couple’s financial struggles, their forced politeness and that damn monogamy imperative are captured with an unusual sense of timing, for an American film, in the hands of filmmaker Frazer Bradshow, who isn’t afraid to linger his camera on empty streets, empty living rooms, and empty beer bottles. There’s something of Revolutionary Road in this rather melancholy film—the same sour taste of broken enchantment in the characters’ mouths, the same reeking expiration of comforting illusions. Except that here it seems like only the husband can see the horror, and the wife (Beth Lisick) chooses quiet distance over hysteria. The furthest she will go is to recommend that Wayne use his beer money to “pay for the fucking house,” only to subsequently apologize, as they each kill their bedside lamp light with the certainty of yet another night without sex.
Everything Strange and New is a film with no flourishes and little affectation. A scene in which Wayne and his wife argue over someone else’s divorce, as if it were their own, ends in them making amends through the woman’s very mechanical kneeling to give her exhausted husband some oral help. You can almost infer that he burps after, as she runs to the bathroom to spit out the jizz, disgusted and relieved that she won’t have to do that again for another year.
For all of its heavy-handed dialogue and some unnecessary subplots, Everything Strange and New does something quite amazing in allowing the kind of bottled-up emotional dynamic that heterosexual masculinity requires to finally express itself in speech. While Wayne’s buddies deal with their own botched attempts at reproducing “the family” in different ways, through rupture or drug-assisted numbing, his ability to make meaning, to speak, takes him to unprecedented territory. A scene in which a bromance turns into a blowjob, shot with admirable subtlety, seems to announce a new sense of possibility, and the dread that comes with it. Recurring shots of Wayne’s carpentry work and the structures of buildings, from inside and out, suggest an attention to the very construction of things. And that once one fundamental brick is removed either it all crashes down, or one realizes that the walls were flexible all along.