By Sherice Antoinette (Los Angeles)
Fear, Love and Agoraphobia arrives right in the middle of March movie madness. Thank goodness for that! Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Logan and Kong: Skull Island. Both are a great time at the cinema. But they’re popcorn movies that may not necessarily resonate with a person looking for a bit of intellectual stimulation long after the credits have rolled.
This is where independent film Fear, Love, and Agoraphobia written and directed by Alex D’Lerma comes in to fill that void. A pleasant and welcome distraction from big budget fare, this movie addresses agoraphobia in a dramatic setting instead of that of a horror flick or comedy. Granted there are comedic moments throughout the 90-minute feature that rests mainly on the shoulders of lead character Chet (Dustin Coffey).
Chet suffers from an extreme case of agoraphobia. Not to be confused with arachnophobia, which is a fear of spiders (there’s actually a funny opening scene that covers this), the anxiety disorder makes it extremely difficult for Chet to function outside his home. So, when his parents decide to move to another city, he freaks out. To avoid causing him further emotional distress, his mom and dad let him remain in the house provided he can find a roommate to help cover the mortgage.
The process is a challenging one. Not only does the new roommate have to deal with Chet’s quirks but him theirs. Things were looking mighty bleak until Maggie (Linda Burzynski), a former Marine, comes along. She is what you would imagine a soldier to be. Tough as nails. It’s because of her no-nonsense attitude that she has the right temperament to handle Chet’s idiosyncrasies. Maggie has two major problems to deal with herself, however. The main one being alcohol. The second a husband in prison.
As Chet and Maggie’s lives intertwine, we witness the healing of two damaged souls. Which reminds me, I’d be doing Coffey and Burzynski a disservice if I didn’t mention their pitch perfect performances. Both bring an authenticity to each character that never rings false. It’s hard to believe this is their first feature film. The two leads are certainly not the only standouts, however. Lori Petty of Orange is the New Black and Tank Girl fame portrays Maggie’s straightforward boss, Frances. Although she only has a few scenes, she’s pretty much the heart of the film.
Other standouts are Ed Aristone as Maggie’s husband, Rick who is having a difficult time dealing with prison life and Chanel Marriott as Valentina, Chet’s cousin. You know the phrase “kissing cousins”? Well, the considerably younger Valentina takes that idiom to a whole new level.
Upon reflection, I would say screenwriter and helmer, Alex D’Lerma appears to be very interested in the human condition, thus the characters he created are very well-developed and layered. Definitely not one-dimensional. He makes sure we as the viewer get a proper glimpse into Chet and Maggie’s psyché, which in turn keeps us interested in their narrative up to the ambiguous ending.
If you’re in Los Angeles, I recommend catching Fear, Love and Agoraphobia at the Playhouse West Festival on March 26th in North Hollywood at 3pm.