Featured image: Timothy V. Murphy as Ben in New Year. (Courtesy of Nathan Sutton.)
In New Year, celebrity photographer Kat (Elisha Renee Sutton, who also co-writes the film) and her esteemed playwright husband, Ben (Timothy V. Murphy), host a New Year’s Eve party, inviting some of their closest friends to celebrate and usher in the New Year. The guests include Kat’s ex-husband Cameron (Neil Jackson) and his new girlfriend Meegan (Raven Scott) – there are countless exchanges where she reminds everyone that her name is pronounced Mee-gan. Also on the guest list are single friend Julian (Kyle Mac), up-and-coming actor Joseph (Nelson Lee) who has just signed on for a big film, as well as his big-shot agent Willa (Gillian Shure).
Directed and co-written by Nathan Sutton – who co-writes with wife Elisha Renee Sutton – they’re able to weave commentary about Los Angeles within its subject matter, as in a conversation where Kat talks about her work as a celebrity photographer with Meegan, Meegan’s surprised to hear that a popular actor is just a regular person. “They can’t be, he’s a celebrity,” she says. This at least comments on romanticizing celebrity life for those who might be new to Los Angeles.
Commentary is weaved in other ways, too, especially in Ben’s thoughts about Los Angeles and how no one is actually creative. He suggests so many people are famous for being famous. “Movies are vehicles for fame; not expression.” Ben consistently has that pessimistic way of looking at things which is interesting and stirs many of the conversations throughout the film, even if he’s prone to being obnoxious or, almost exclusively, condescending.
That’s a key component of the film that, while their dynamics are thoughtful, many of these characters seem to have an air of superiority. For instance, when Joseph’s agent Willa learns that Ben is the Benjamin Pax who wrote a fictional play called Gifts of Truth, she turns on Meegan for never having heard of the play. It’s the kind-of gatekeeping at these kinds of parties – if you’ve never seen a specific film or read a specific novel, you’re looked down upon – that I think the Sutton’s really nail on the head in terms of realism.
As well, the way the film is shot technically – by cinematographer Michael Lockridge – is memorable, with the film’s gorgeous black and white, and with the limited locations, the film feels like it’s orchestrated as a stage play, employing longer takes and naturalistic acting. It all boils down to a very interesting game of “I Love You, I Hate You,” to round out the festivities. That’s where the honesty and dialogue is at its most interesting; as we really get to the core of these characters and what makes them tick.
For New Year, I was able to speak with some of the team behind the film, including the film’s director and co-writer Nathan Sutton, co-writer and actress Elisha Renee Sutton, as well as actor Nelson Lee. They joined me on my podcast The Filmcraziest Show to chat about some New Year’s traditions and resolutions, setting the film at that holiday, the games they play in the film, the cinematography and how involved that was, and much more. Find that conversation right below on YouTube, and in its audio version where you can listen or download it below.
New Year is playing in select theatres, starting December 15, in New York (at the Film Noire in Greenpoint, Brooklyn) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica).