The silence is broken only by Michael's tenant, Lori (Eugenia Yuan), who lives downstairs in the first floor of Michael's house. Lori has the disturbing habit of making loud, passionate love to her boyfriend, Justin (Matt Westmore), and then coming upstairs to snuggle with Michael and talk about this and that.
For Michael, of course, it's torture. He longs for the beautiful Lori but has absolutely no way of expressing himself. She realizes her power over him and seems to enjoy wielding it, more for her own self-esteem than to be cruel. She controls Justin with her body and controls Michael with the mere promise of her nightly visits. Though it's unclear how long this has been going on, the exhausted look in Michael's eyes makes it seem like it's been forever. Justin, however, doesn't seem to have any complaints.
Seeking some late-night relief at a local bar, Michael encounters Darcy (Jacqueline Kim), an assertive and whip-smart free spirit who sets her sights on him and pushes to get to know him much better despite his impenetrable silences. She sees him as a challenge. They drink a lot, talk a little, and Darcy quickly makes her big move, but Michael resists, insisting he'd rather get to know her first. Darcy's impatience intimidates him. She doesn't have much time, she says. She'll be leaving soon. Michael simply stares into her eyes and doesn't even ask why.
Once Darcy meets Lori and Justin, the puzzling trio becomes an even more mysterious foursome. Darcy disappears and reappears, there are tense get-togethers at a restaurant, on a tennis court, at a backyard barbecue. Justin eyes Darcy, Darcy eyes Lori, and Lori sees her perfect little world under assault. Michael just stands off to the side clutching a beer, wondering, as you, too, wonder, what exactly is going on here. It's a four-way dance of longing, mistrust, and deception that thankfully is never subverted by the clichés of tearful confessions or shocking revelations. No one says what they really want, and therefore no one knows what to give. The characters seem frozen in their own thoughts, and you become the embarrassed fifth wheel in the group, wondering if there's anything you should be saying to shake them loose. Um, does anyone need another beer?
Charlotte Sometimes is a fascinating exercise in understatement. Eric Byler is as much of a choreographer as a director. Sure, the words matter, but so does every glance, ever shadow falling across a face, every little bit of body language. Interestingly, the fact that all the characters are Asian is never mentioned. They just are, and that's that. It's a rarity in American films and something that's refreshing to see.
DVD extras include two commentaries -- one from half the cast, the other from the other half of the cast, both with Byler -- plus a Q&A session with Roger Ebert and an outtakes/extras featurette.
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Monday 11th March 2002
Distributed by: Visionbox Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Eric Byler
Screenwriter: Eric Byler