Anna is having a bad weekend: her boyfriend Eric has just broken up with her — for a college girl — saddling her with all his belongings, including an extensive record collection that dominates the apartment they share together. She questions if she can ever be loved for who she is, and if she’ll ever find love at all.
But when an empty cart finds its way below her apartment, she decides to use it to sell the records. But the cart and its eccentricities seem to waylay her plans, leading her to a few small yet fortuitous encounters that lift her out of her heartbreak, doubt and anger.
Writer-director Tiffany Laufer’s whimsical yet grounded dramedy disguises itself as a slice-of-life narrative about a embittered breakup, but with touches of whimsy and a genuine emotional core, it offers a way to frame the ordinary happenstance of life as the gift that it is.
Funny, quirky flourishes within the scenes enliven a narrative that may seem modest in scope, but within that smaller scale is a relatability that forms part of the story’s charm and resonance and fits into the ordinary surfaces of the film’s world.
Within the quotidian, the film’s little touches of whimsy seem to hint at the fairy tale that life can be, whether it’s in the way the cart seems to have a mind of its own or the animal hat that Anna uses to escape being seen by her now-ex. These quirks are rendered in a casual, even offhand way, emerging organically from awkward situations or character behavior, which prevents them from being too mannered or cutesy.
As the storytelling ambles along, it seems to relax within itself as Anna does. By the time she runs into one of her students, it allows her to soften enough to find a tiny yet lovely way to enjoy life again, ending an everyday fairy tale on a note of heartwarming hope.
“Cart” contains itself to a seemingly small goal, but in mining that simple errand for its full transformative potential, it offers a universal emotional arc, one that makes meaning out of pain and finds relief and comfort from the tumult of life. Other films may be more ambitious in its aims and execution, but it’s fitting that a film that can fashion an amiable fairy tale from the stuff of everyday life ultimately becomes a fable about finding contentment in the face of it all.