Starring in 2011's SXSW Film Weekend, Tom Cullen makes his directorial debut for this year's SXSW with his romance/drama, Pink Wall. Shot in a quick succession of nine days, the film unravels with Leon (Jay Duplass) and Jenna (Tatiana Maslany, Cullen's partner in real life)'s relationship in a non-linear fashion, highlighting memories of the successes and failures the two experience over a six year period. Thrust into an argument over a family meal in their fourth year together, to then weaving back to their initial meeting and the subtly familiar gestures of attraction, Pink Wall stirs a recognition in all of us in the ways that relationships ebb and flow, the communication mishaps we encounter and life's hurdles that inevitably affect all of us when building a life with another individual.
Bits and pieces of Jenna and Leon are exposed as we're thrust into their relationship, dispersing their tensions and disagreements along with their hopes and vulnerabilities in six scenes. We initially see Jenna as a fun-loving party girl, Leon as a late-night DJ and photographer but soon begin to recognize their discrete nuances. Jenna strikes as a passionate and ambitious worker whose career is starting to take off, while Leon's focus and love hones in on the fulfillment of starting a family and maintaining close relationships with the ones he loves. Using facial close-ups and grainy film, the first few years are abundant with intimate eye contact and an innate understanding of one another, coupled with conversations of relationship dynamics and lofty dreams. As the years wear on, so too are the characters pushed to the outskirts of the frame and their avoidance of the silent clashes that pull them apart come into play. Desires for her partner to strive to meet his goals and fear of her impossibly high standards lead to misunderstandings and walling themselves from each other, Leon relying on humor as a defense mechanism while Jenna would rather avoid speaking the truth and being upfront about relationship matters that bother her.
Pink Wall doesn't break new ground in terms of its reflection of relationships, but still manages to illustrate a believable tone with Duplass and Maslany's performances, allowing space for the actors to process and carry out their courtships and disparities. Similar acts convey differing energies and meanings dependent on their context: in their second year together sex is portrayed as an intimate act that brings the two closer together after a dispute with one of Jenna's friends about open relationships, yet in year five sex unfolds as a form of tense aggression, unleashing their pent up frustrations upon each other. Walls within relationships gradually rise and even with the best of intentions it's difficult to point a finger at exactly when and how things went wrong, yet we can't help but attempt to latch onto specific moments that seemed to spur the romance or mark the turning point of its demise.