Stray Bullets has the air of a film student project which would be an insult were its creator not in high school at the time. Sixteen-year-old Jack Fessenden takes directing, writing, composing and editing credits in his debut feature, along with a starring role. His age explains how heavily Stray Bullets leans into tropes, with its gangsters fleeing a botched job plainly inspired by early Tarantino. However, its setting in upstate New York feels fresh with its surprisingly verdant backdrops, coupled with an anachronistic synthesiser score. Fessenden is admittedly aided by growing up in a filmmaking family — his father Larry Fessenden operates the a production company and he captures his son’s vision with beautiful cinematography. The film’s strength lies in its quieter moments, the camera dwelling on serene greenery between scenes. However, it can also highlight the pacing issues, with little story development in the first hour. Stray Bullets is hard to recommend as more than an indie curiosity, but it’s an impressive statement of intent from Fessenden, whose skills will only continue to mature.
Perhaps writer Noga Pnueli was giving herself permission for the messy blend of ideas in Meet Cute, which is likely to be mistaken for a romcom — particularly with Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson in lead roles — when it is really a high concept drama using time travel as a mechanic to explore issues in a similar way to Richard Curtis’ endearing About Time. Sheila is obsessed with reliving the same chance meeting and first date over and over, despite the apparent futility of never experiencing the rest of the relationship. This serves as multiple metaphors over the course of the film: firstly, how familiarity breeds contempt in a relationship; and secondly, how despair can drive us toward the safety of the familiar at the expense of growth. This mental health angle is the film’s most novel idea but it is also the most weakly developed. Meet Cute’s time travel is forgivably broken since it is never treated seriously — the tanning bed gives Hot Tub Time Machine competition for dumbest vessel. The insurmountable issue is that its two leads both bring considerable charm to the screen but lack any chemistry with one another, particularly by comparison to Lehmann’s previous connection drama in Blue Jay. Without audience investment in the relationship, Meet Cute lacks a solid foundation on which the rest of its ideas can build — it’s okay for things to be messy sometimes, but only okay.