Urbania Jon Shear
"Urbania" is a strikingly stylish film that centres on the restless existence of Charlie (Dan Futterman), a young gay man who spends his sleepless nights roaming the dark streets of New York City in search of someone or something to mend his broken life. The atmosphere that director Jon Shear creates is disjointed and haunting, surrounding Charlie with fragments of dreams, fantasies, and memories that threaten to overwhelm him. Charlie's story, past and present, is gradually revealed through these flashes, and his search starts to take on tremendous meaning and resonance. Thrown into this mix are a series of "true" urban legends that continually unfold in Charlie's midst and are related to him by the surreal cast of characters that he encounters throughout the film.
Great performances are delivered all around, led by Dan Futterman's Charlie, who is unbearably sympathetic even when he lashes out at everyone around him. The outstanding supporting cast features Matt Keeslar as Charlie's former partner Chris, Gabriel Olds as a shallow actor who brings out the worst in Charlie, and Samuel Ball as the dangerous mystery man that Charlie is pursuing. Alan Cumming also gives a brief but incredible turn as a dying friend whose mixture of fragility and bitterness is unnerving, yet strangely moving. The overall success of the film, however, belongs to the director. Shear's non-linear storytelling methods are deft and dramatic, contorting the viewer's sense of reality to conform with Charlie's out-of-control perception. The sense of Charlie's mental state is further heightened by juxtaposing his bleak, cold reality with fragments of warm, loving memories of his former life with Chris.
"Urbania" remains compelling throughout, even after the facts of Charlie's situation are made clear. The film manages to end with integrity as well, providing Charlie with some hard-won redemption while not offering glib or sensationalistic solutions.