Anna Thompson is a mess.
Acne hotspots are breaking through the thick makeup she slathers on first thing every morning. She's a lifelong bulimic who purges on fast-food burgers. Her husband is a passive-aggressive bully, and her sister constantly criticizes her as a failure.
Portrayed by Jessalyn Gilsig (Nip/Tuck, Glee, Vikings) with an implosive intensity that both alarms and delights, Anna is the unlikely heroine of Somewhere Slow, a terrific low-budget indie romantic dramedy from Wilmington-born writer-director Jeremy O'Keefe.
Anna lives an insufferably boring existence as a cosmetic products saleswoman in Wilmington who seems incapable of expressing, or unwilling to express, any emotion - much less the true depths of her despair.
Aggressively friendly, with a permanent smile frozen on her face, she goes about her awful job and spends boring evenings with her boring, boorish husband Robert (David Costabile). She remains dangerously passive, her smile still frozen during dinner out, when he orders dishes for her that she hates and later, when he has sex with her.
But the facade is cracking, and one day Anna cracks, too. It happens one night when she comes upon the scene of a convenience-store robbery that has left both the thief and clerk dead. Without a moment's hesitation, she grabs the bag of cash left on the counter. When a Maine-bound bus screeches to a halt after nearly running her over, she gets aboard.
That's when she meets Travis, a Mormon runaway in his late teens. Travis is played with sweet neurotic energy by Graham Patrick Martin (Major Crimes, Two and a Half Men).
Travis is a puzzle. Anna, and with her the audience, can't decide whether he is a naïf straight out of Daniel Defoe or a sociopath. He doesn't respect boundaries, while Anna is super-aware of them; he opens up about his seriously twisted emotional history at the drop of a hat, while she remains closed off.
Once in Maine, the duo break into an old summer cabin belonging to Anna's parents. There, they play house for a few days. And they begin to make inroads into each other's heart. Slowly they come to trust each other, then fall in love.
Travis has a dark secret we won't learn until it's too late, which gives this sweet, moving, memorable film a bittersweet ending.
Somewhere Slow *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Jeremy O'Keefe. With Jessalyn Gilsig, Graham Patrick Martin, David Costabile, Robert Forster, and Lindsay Crouse. Distributed by Screen Media Films.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins
Parent's guide: Not rated (profanity, partial nudity, brief sex scene, drug-taking, smoking)
Playing at: AMC Plymouth Meeting 12