Sloan is a young woman who lives in New York where she sees the tag of anonymous graffiti artist Neckface everywhere. She begins writing him letters and adds her addition to his tag, which causes him to write back in consternation.
The pair begin leaving messages to one another that are both raw, emotive and yearning for genuine connection. Neckface unexpectedly falls in love, but then things take an unexpected turn when he attempts to navigate the tension between his anonymity and his desire for intimacy.
Directed by Justin Fair from a script written by Ian Grody, this short romantic drama combines both urban grit and a quirky love story, taking many left turns and detours in both plot and tone, and ultimately celebrating the romance of both two people finding connection in one of the biggest cities in the world.
Told as a series of messages between Sloan and Neckface, the film has a montage-like structure, driven by voiceover with images that underline the speaker's thoughts and actions and create a narrative puzzle, as well as a free-wheeling story experience with many twists and turns.
Sloan's vividly expressive voiceover leads the film at first, and her crush on the artist causes her to add hearts to Neckface's tag wherever she sees it in the city. Then Neckface's POV takes the lead, as he responds and then falls for Sloan, and hearing both voices reveals a sympatico energy and similarity between the two that makes them potential soulmates.
True to its milieu, the film's kinetic, restless visual style celebrates the unique spaces of New York -- not the city's consumerist glamour but its humble rooftops, bodegas, construction sites and subway stations, where the work of graffiti artists nestles into the city landscape. And like New York itself, both Sloan and Neckface (played by actors Clara Mamet and Raul Castillo, respectively) have an outer profane toughness that masks a melancholy underneath.
But their love story gets complicated when Neckface's roommate Lester enters the picture, and the story swerves into a darkly comical direction that would traditionally be farce, if not for the unconventional structure of the story. It creates a narrative puzzle box, as an unconventional triangle emerges out of the chaos. But eventually, that shape resolves, as Sloan forces Neckface out into the open and moves forward with their nascent relationship.
Unexpected, engaging and entertaining throughout, "Sloan Hearts Neckface" has a sensibility that's jagged and rough around the edges, much like the film's namesakes and settings. But ultimately it reveals a sincere, yearning heart, one that earns its sweetness without sacrificing edge. Through its unique structure, it packs in a feature film's worth of story into a short format -- as well as proves that love, art and joy can flourish anywhere, even in the most overlooked corners of the world.