Personal Velocity
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Personal Velocity isn’t really one movie as much as it’s three short movies, loosely connected by a single event—a news broadcast on the radio. Each of the three parts focuses on one woman who finds herself facing a turning point in her life.

In part one, it’s Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), a tough wife and mother of three who decides to pack up her kids and leave her abusive husband. Delia leaves town and settles into a new job and a new life, but she eventually starts falling back on her old destructive habits.

Part two is about Greta (Parker Posey), a book editor who’s married to a wonderful (yet dull) man. As she becomes more and more successful, she begins to face the major issues in her life: her career and her future, her attitude toward both her father and her husband, and her “problem with fidelity.”

Part three is about Paula (Fairuza Balk), a former teen runaway who’s once again on the run. One night, when she goes out to forget about her newly-discovered pregnancy and a fight with her boyfriend, she meets a man. While she’s walking down the street with him, he’s hit by a car. Scared and confused, Paula runs, not knowing where she’s heading. On the road, she picks up a young hitchhiker who brings out her mothering instinct.

Writer/director Rebecca Miller (daughter of Arthur Miller) created this film based on three of the seven short stories in her book (also called Personal Velocity). She uses a narrator to get inside her characters’ heads, but she fails to make it feel realistic by choosing a male narrator to explain the intimate thoughts and feelings of a woman.

The cinematography for this film is stunning—definitely deserving of the awards that cinematographer Ellen Kuras received for her work. Unfortunately, the exquisite cinematography seems wasted on a film that depends so heavily on spoken narration.

While the three character sketches are somewhat interesting, they’re not especially fascinating. The main characters aren’t all that likeable (except, maybe, for Paula, the teen runaway), and it’s pretty hard to care about what happens to them—no matter how well the actresses portray them. The sketches are short and, for the most part, lacking in action—the end of each sketch may signify a major turning point in each character’s life, but they’re all quite anti-climactic for the viewer. And there isn’t even a particularly creative way to tie the three stories together. As the credits roll, you may find yourself saying, “That’s it?”

Unless you’re especially interested in character sketches, you’ll most likely find Personal Velocity to be somewhat lacking in velocity. For a more interesting slice-of-life picture, check out the French film, Amélie instead.

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