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A Short History of Decay

Studio: Paladin
Written and Directed by Michael Maren

May 16, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Nathan (Bryan Greenberg), an aspiring New York writer who spends more time talking about his writing than practicing it, has just been dumped by his girlfriend. To make matters worse, his father suffers a stroke. Nathan flies down to Florida to help his early-stage Alzheimer’s mother (Linda Lavin) care for his father (Harris Yulin). While in their beach community, Nathan reconnects with his parents and brother – whose life is not as picture-perfect as he thought – and meets a couple of gorgeous women who provide, if not alternatives, then at least distractions from his ex.

There is nothing to inherently dislike in A Short History of Decay, but neither is there anything to love. Writer-director Michael Maren clearly knows his story structure – plot points fall when and where they should – but little seems to happen throughout. Nate’s breakup with his live-in girlfriend is so new and raw that he’s incapable of speaking about much else through the film. Time after time, Nate and his family rehash their issues – his break-up, his brother’s marital woes, his parents’ failing health – but they never achieve any real clarity. They approach resolutions, as does the film, but way more is left open than answered.

As a protagonist, Nate is too newly hurt and acerbic to find much to like about him. He’s fed up with his parents – in particular, his mother’s deteriorating memory due to Alzheimer’s – and his frequent, needy voicemails to his girlfriend more than border on pathetic. Even when he’s on dates with the charming, albeit inexplicably interested women he meets in Florida, Nate is little more than the stock broken-hearted writer (who, by the way, seems to have attempted only two pieces of writing and completed neither). Maren does a fine job overseeing the cinematography, sets, locations, and performances, but the story is vacant and inconclusive. A Short History of Decay is far from the worst 94 minutes ever committed to film, and it might be dandy for a rainy day at the beach, but it offers little in return for a viewing.

A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY Trailer from Michael Maren on Vimeo.

Author rating: 3/10

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June 24th 2014

To be honest when I read the movie’s one-line synopsis, I wasn’t interested. There are so many of those kind of sad indie comedies made by jaded hipsters that just fall flat, but after hearing some positive reviews from friends I checked it out and was glad I did.  This film had such a great mix of heart and laughs, it struck that perfect balance that countless films before it have tried to but almost never succeed it. 

Also loved that they used “Do What You Like” by Oxford during the scene in the car with Alex on the way to lunch.  There’s way too many generic ‘indie rock’ songs in movies these days, but this tune is up to the standards of the old songwriters like Crosby, Young, Kristofferson, etc.