Martha has come alone to New Orleans as a tourist, drifting between sights to distract herself from her troubles at home. But despite the new setting, she continues to feel disconnected and adrift.
But then she takes an opportunity to pretend to be someone else and meets a supposed co-worker, faking an identity and getting caught up in his dreams and fantasies about the woman he thinks she is. But instead of giving Martha connection, the deception brings her closer to some painful truths in her life.
Written and directed by Paavo Hanninen, this intriguing short drama explores a tangled web of lies, longing and truth woven by a woman beset by troubles and looking to escape her life and self. Told with equal parts sensuous intimacy and brooding introspection, it explores an emotional landscape of profound loneliness, and what people will do to alleviate it.
Its narrative premise takes on the temptation to try another identity in a place where no one knows you. It’s a common fantasy, executed here with a patient, intelligent observation of character. The focus is on how uneasy internal states lead to equally uneasy choices and behavior. As viewers watch Martha go deeper into her deception, tension slowly builds, both between the characters sexually and in the story emotionally.
The storytelling seems to weave a story of a brief but passionate affair, and the moody images full of brooding shadows and saturated colors take on a quietly provocative tone. The focus is on close-ups, though the man and the woman he knows as “Kara” don’t often share many camera shots. Instead, we’re focused on Martha’s experience, brought to life by actor Jamie Neumann, who captures the canniness it requires to take on another person’s identity so deeply. She is seductive, but there’s a part of her in reserve, partly because of the inherent deception of her gambit.
But as the hapless co-worker confesses the strangely affecting fantasies he has projected upon someone he barely knows, the intimacy gives her the space to confess something truly deep and vulnerable, which sends the romantic encounter spinning in unexpected directions.
“Tourist” has the weathered look of some of the very grown-up dramas that came out of 1970s Hollywood, where films like “Klute” explored mature situations with unsparing matter-of-factness. That same tone is established here through raw, unsentimental performances and writing, woven with disquieting currents of tension in the well-crafted storytelling. But in the end, we winnow down into a story about grief, regrets and inner brokenness. We realize that no matter how far we travel or how much we try to forget who we are, we can never escape ourselves.