The smaller the scale of a portrait, the more the individual brush strokes tend to matter. The finely tuned relationship drama Rogers Park successfully captures a compelling slice of life where there are no clear-cut heroes or villains, just normal everyday folks with some recognizably unlovely facets to their personalities. Within its determinedly narrow scope, there are very few false moves to be found.
Set in the titular Chicago neighborhood, the script by Carlos Treviño follows two closely intertwined couples (Jonny Mars and Christine Horn, Sara Sevigny and Antoine McKay) who find themselves deeply mired in the Long-Suffering stage of their respective relationships. Over the course of a year, an impressive array of skeletons come tumbling out of more than a few closets.
Director Kyle Henry gets sharp performances out of his entire cast—Sevigny is particularly good as a teacher with control issues that extend beyond her classroom—while also giving a painfully real feel to their interactions, particularly when depicting how little random annoyances can rapidly snowball out of all proportion. (A central party featuring weed cupcakes has a vertiginous, Wile E. Coyote-esque momentum to its downward spiral.) By the time of an impassioned, end-of-evening argument where every single word on both sides somehow comes out wrong, the majority of audience members should find themselves alternately nodding and wincing right along.
Micro-by-design movies can be easy to overhype, and the way that Rogers Park eschews big speeches in favor of small character beats can occasionally feel, well, possibly a little too subtle. Once you get into the film’s unforced rhythms, however, it’s tough not to be impressed at how it depicts even the most critical decisions with wit, maturity, and a reasonable modicum of hope. The numerous Kickstarter backers listed in the end credits should feel free to start swapping celebratory high fives.