With “Band Aid,” it’s time to get interested in Zoe Lister-Jones. She has been on the fringes of the movie business for several years now, starring in a couple of low-budget films that she has written, while enjoying more mainstream success on TV as a regular on the show “Life in Pieces.” “Band Aid” is her first film as a director — she also wrote and stars in it — and something about her and this film is really appealing.
“Band Aid” is the portrait of a marriage, and between the frames, it’s emblematic of a certain type of person in this particular cultural and economic moment. The husband and wife here are young but not so young that they’re not worried about the future. They are in their 30s and of an artistic bent, each having almost succeeded in becoming successful in the arts. But now they’re working in jobs they don’t like, in the “gig economy,” which is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
To add to their troubles, they’re coping with the aftermath of a miscarriage, which seems to have devastated them, so that now they keep getting into arguments about stupid things. They associate each other with stress and jump on every chance to gain the advantage. Lister-Jones has a light touch with this, and the script has wit. But the audience is aware that we’re seeing something serious, that these are people in love whose marriage is circling the drain.
Lister-Jones is good at capturing the dynamic of marital arguments, how they blow up without warning and can subside just as quickly, though the latter usually takes an act of will. Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) don’t just argue, but they argue about how the other argues, telling each other what they have and don’t have the right to say. It’s like watching the futility of intelligence in action. Their gifts are doing neither of them any good, not in the world and not in their home.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The film’s emotional locus is Anna, who, of the two, is the most troubled and dissatisfied and is the most in touch with her grief and disappointment. Lister-Jones has no trouble placing herself at the center. If you didn’t know going in, you wouldn’t guess that this is someone directing herself. There are no self-indulgent scenes of wistful contemplation. “Band Aid” is a clear-eyed movie about a clear-eyed woman trying to break through her malaise through decisive action.
The action in this case is to start a band. As a way of solving two problems at once — their artistic stagnation and their marital discord — they start turning their arguments into songs. This results in some clever creations, including a bizarre, chipper love song in which the two sing about how much they don’t want to have sex with each other.
The decision to form a band comes early in the film, and everything that happens follows from there. “Band Aid” is not without slow spots, and in a sense the story suffers from Lister-Jones’ integrity: The movie remains realistic, not a fairy tale. Still Lister-Jones makes us believe in this couple, keeps us interested in their lives and keeps us thinking about other people like them.
(At Screenland Tapcade.)
Not rated. Time: 1:34.