Ryon Martin Brown
Watched at the Vevey International Funny Film Festival 2023
Free Time addresses the eternal dilemma of millennials: to be or not to be free-willed, to be or not to be happy. At its core, the narrative explores the elusive pursuit of joy in the working world; a topic extremely in vogue among young people in their twenties, myself included, who feel disillusioned and deceived by the post-college world. The lofty expectations created during the college period now lay shattered by the complete abstract futility of the studied subjects. For Drew, film’s hero or, perhaps more aptly, anti-hero, grapples not only with the perpetual dissatisfaction of spending his youthful years to eight hours drowned by eight hours of daily monotony but also with the contemplation of quitting. However, for many of us, this contemplation remains merely a fleeting thought, as we defer each day’s deceive action for the next.
In his first feature film, shot in only 10 days and on a ultra-low budget of $10,000, Ryon Martin Brown tells the story of Drew, portrayed by a very comic Colin Burgess, who, in an impulsive act, fulfills the collective fantasy we have all dreamed of: he quits his job. He quits motivated by a profound dissatisfaction with the monotony of his days, Drew aspires to rediscover the beauties of life, connect with nature and embrace the simplicity of idleness. But, in contrast to his happy-ending comedy dreams, Drew, immersed in a state of Oblomovism, finds himself spending his days confined to the disorder and neglect of his home. Adrift and uncertain, he grapples with the solitude’s ennui, with his sole naturalistic solace the evergreen houseplant, ultimately regretting his decision.
Free Time reflects ironically on the everlasting search for something else, something fresh. This theme is heightened to the utmost by the frenetic rhythms of Woody Allen’s ubiquitous Manhattan. The city is alive, active, constantly moving and mutating in contrast to a static Drew who, after an initial moment of resourcefulness, becomes disheartened by the real world. The film accentuates this feeling of dispersion in long shots of Drew wandering the streets, losing himself in the bustling crowd, as in life.
In a style reminiscent of Allen’s own character, Drew emerges as an insecure insecure, intellectual and fretful nebbish. He reflects too much and aloud but without that trademark biting humor typical of Woody Allen’s movies. Drew considers himself funny and charming but is incapable of carrying on a conversation longer than a smoothie. Colin Burgess molds a character in his own likeness but without “any sense of self-criticism,” as he describes it. A character imbued with weirdness evokes discomfort in the audience from the first to the last minute, prompting self-reflection. The narrative swings like a pendulum before the film’s viewing: from moments of sympathy and tenderness for the protagonist’s misguided choices to instances where those same decisions evoke a sense of repudiation. This oscillation sustains the film’s engagement and appeal, ultimately leaving a bitter aftertaste. Is it because Drew failed to stick to his choice until the end or perhaps because we lack the courage to make that same fateful decision?
- Mario Di Luca