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“Chestnut” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

chestnut

For most college students, the hazy, liminal space of a post-graduation summer marks the end of the familiar and the beginning of more uncertain futures. Unlike the transition from high school to higher education, the move away from college life is akin to finally removing the training wheels off of a bike. There are no more built-in supports — no more communal housing, prescheduled calendars, or the ability to move, almost always, with a crowd of your peers; instead, you’re left with an often overwhelming sense of your autonomy.

The feature debut from director Jac Cron, “Chestnut,” is a coming-of-age drama that harnesses the weight of this unknowing, filtering it through the lens of young drunken summer nights that, upon recollection, are oh-so-fuzzy around the edges. “Stranger Things” actor Natalia Dyer stars here as Annie, a recent finance grad and aspiring writer holding over time in her sleepy Philadelphia college town until her newly minted job in Los Angeles begins. Despite the support of her loving father, Annie is reluctant to begin this new chapter of her life; she is slow to pack up her apartment and seems to be dragging her feet regarding all of the other preparations she must undertake before moving across the country. 

Drinking alone at a bar during one of these quietly creeping summer nights, Annie meets the romantically ambiguous duo, Tyler and Danny. Tyler (Rachel Keller of FX’s “Fargo”) is enigmatic, charming Annie just as equally as she confuses her. At the same time, Danny (Danny Ramirez of “Top Gun: Maverick”), the more reserved of the pair, seems content to observe Annie and Tyler’s flirtation from a distance. Roommates and co-workers at a local bar, Tyler and Danny’s relationship is unclear to Annie in everything but its obviously entangled and codependent nature. 

Annie is immediately attracted to Tyler and quickly becomes enmeshed into her and Danny’s social circle, spending what remains of her summer nights with the pair at everything from after-worked-drinks-turned-sweaty parties to intimate poetry readings in quiet bars. Avoiding the check-ins of her longtime college friend Jason (Chella Man) as well as her father’s calls, Annie’s attraction to Tyler offers an emotional whirlwind of a portal through which the young woman can escape into a different version of her life — with the caveat that a choice must be made at summer’s end.

Illuminated in equal parts by neon bar signs and the stark light of the morning after, “Chestnut” builds out Annie’s world with a wonderful sense of atmosphere, leaning into its characters’ emotional flux as a means for shaping its story and visual form. The film’s camera here is fluid yet unobtrusive in its movements as it watches the intricate choreography of its character’s often unsaid emotional states play out. We are given over to the sense that we are moving alongside the characters here, quietly taking in the scene from underneath the drunken heaviness of our eyelids longing for sleep.

It’s a sexually charged love triangle that is as compelling as it is blurred in its boundaries and definitions. It’s fueled not only by late nights out but also by the refusal of emotional transparency that is so often weaponized by our more vulnerable and younger selves. Annie longs for Tyler’s affections, but they are won almost too easily, too quickly, leaving little of substance in the wake of their encounters beyond more unanswered questions. Tyler is quick to charm with her energetic personality and impulsive nature, while Danny is, at first glance, more of a grounding figure in his ability to speak of things beyond the moment. The task for Annie here is not to choose between Tyler and Danny, but rather to realize that each of them will inevitably leave her wanting more in their own ways.

Compact in its runtime, “Chestnut” offers a softly lyrical glimpse of young life on the precipice of a new and uncertain future. The narrative work undertaken here is subtle — a gesture, a glance, an exhalation of breath form the bulk of its affective materials, all of which are patterned only briefly by overdue bursts of frustration, anger, and sadness. It’s a film that — for both better and worse — has an easy familiarity to it in as much as its take on a coming-of-age tale is neither emphatically specific nor unique. It is, instead, utterly human in showcasing its internal worlds, offering an intimate meditation on the charged mundanities of young adulthood that, in the moment of experiencing them, feel anything but.

Chestnut movie poster

Chestnut (2024)

87 minutes

Cast

Natalia Dyeras Annie

Rachel Kelleras Tyler

Danny Ramirezas Danny

Chella Manas Jason

Caleb Eberhardtas Connor

Director

  • Jac Cron

Screenplay

  • Jac Cron

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