Marc Lafia’s 27 is enlightened and emotionally arousing. For the intellectual, watching this film is like taking a big bite out of a juicy cognitive steak. You will chew on it for a while, and want a second serving.
The film opens on a sun kissed beach with a family. A young angelic girl walking in the sand, enthusiastically discovers that “Oh my Gosh, grapes are made from raisins! I mean, raisins are made from… ” and so it goes. Like a dream, scenes weave in and out of sweet, candid moments with the adolescent girl and a montage of introspective conversations and life scenes among a few bright, artistic students.
Thus begins a series of ongoing conversations with a young, successful, artist named James Leary and the pattering of alternation between him and what we learn is the filmmaker’s family. At first the artist appears tinkering in his studio, fully dressed in suit and tie, with natural brown hair. He is well spoken, a bit uncomfortable, and seems to be distracted due to his excessive use of the word “like”. A highly intelligent fellow, Leary delivers subjective observations on matters that hold his interest: basic human instinct, the paradigm of success, being an artist, and so forth. He prattles on until he opens up about what’s really on the forefronts of his mind; his current romantic flame.
At one point, a seemingly voyeuristic scene of the mother and filmmakers wife pleasuring herself, is revisited later in the film. The filmmaker, Marc Lafia, reflects on his marriage, while sitting on the toilet in a pair of sunglasses. He delivers this forthright monologue to his wife; “Well it’s become entirely clear to me that you’ve become entirely self sufficient unto yourself, and don’t want an adult relationship with your husband. You can orgasm in 40 seconds, you have 70 friends on Facebook saying happy birthday. You can get up and have a swim and read your “Lean In” and other “How to be in the moment” books and be entirely self contained in your, all your responsibilities and all your hard work, and all your traumas and anxieties and I’m just orbiting out there like Pluto …way out there in the distance. Unto myself, that is what 15 years of marriage does and 2 children. It’s really, absolutely a fact. It’s just this other statistic. That’s how it does play out. I just feel like that’s absolutely a lonely life amidst all this joy of solitude ”
We meet another version of James Leary, whom is more at ease, in a blue jean jacket with bleached blond hair. He is awkward and sweet, lunching casually in his studio, and speaking directly into the camera. His thoughts are deep and wordy. He is lost in introspection, almost to the point of delivering a soliloquy.
The poetic Divina, a student, seems to be his intellectual equal. We follow them through the streets. They stop to banter about the crossroads in their relationship. He expresses the desire to be connected to her exclusively; she counteractively expresses a desire for freedom, in an unconventional capacity. They debate over the natural human need to connect and love, versus the need to explore sex and eroticism, as well as the addiction to stimulation. Leary sums up Divina’s clever reasoning and avoidance to define things as “hippie shit”.
We also peek into the lives (and minds) of a group of actors, a young filmmaker, a nude model and etc. At one point Lafia takes to the streets to collect varying opinions, posing the question:“How would you reinvent sex?” One enthusiast proclaims, “Why would I want to reinvent sex? It’s already established. It’s already good. Sex is like pizza; even when it’s bad, it’s good, so no. I wouldn’t want to reinvent it.”
The fundamental purposefulness of human action, in regards the deteriorating of modern relationships; the basic human need to love and be loved, are tapped into by all parties. Yet the coexistence of many contradictions there is magnified, and the underlying message carries something that is both sad as well as lost, in terms of the modern human spirit.
Throughout the film, such heavy conversations are relieved and refreshed by way of innocent moments with Lafia’s bright and inquisitive daughter. She sings Velvet Underground lyrics while floating in the Ocean, picking raspberries, playing the piano, and doing other things that kids do when in their natural element.
Whether the scenarios posed are staged or completely spontaneous, you will most certainly want to watch it again. Sometimes they coincide, and sometimes they overlap, but the scenes offer a nice, steady flow of streaming ideologies between subjects. 27 is what I would call “juicy” in an intellectual and emotional sense. It will leave you in an introspective and engaging state of mind to analyze and reflect on your relationships, much like the subjects themselves.
We are only human, after all. Which makes us all sewn from the same, fragile cloth in “some nowhere, somewhere, everywhere space”. This is cinematic art.