Photo: Jason Miller
“Two outstanding performances anchor critic/filmmaker Dan Sallitt’s fourth feature Fourteen, which elliptically chronicles the final years in a long-standing friendship between two contrasting young women… Tallie Medel, a diminutive Alaskan actress-dancer with Alita-like eyes, whose special qualities have so far been underutilized by American cinema. That may change thanks to Sallitt’s sensitively-handled study of platonic love and the devastating impact of mental illness, while it should also propel lanky, drawling knockout Norma Kuhling — a relative newcomer who has something of a young Jessica Lange about her — to higher-profile roles… Kuhling has sufficient space to develop a three-dimensional characterization of a deeply troubled person seemingly beyond the help of medication or psychiatric care. Medel, seldom off-screen, turns in a marvelous, utterly engaging portrait of an intelligent, caring person slowly stretched to breaking point.” – Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter
“The fifth feature by revered critic, compulsive cinephile, and occasional filmmaker Dan Sallitt, Fourteen is a modest but gradually — and, in the end, greatly — affecting sketch of how even the closest of friendships can shift and wither over the years… Fourteen isn’t aspiring towards the naturalism suggested by its unfussy aesthetic, but rather trying to mine a deeper kind of truth from the friction between the rigidity of Sallitt’s framing and the casualness of his action… When lifetimes of latent drama come home to roost in the surprisingly eventful final scenes, Fourteen builds to an unsparingly lucid assessment of what two friends can take from — and carry for — each other.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“Fourteen, the fourth feature film from the talented but underseen New York filmmaker Dan Sallitt, is a bittersweet breakup movie – only in this case, the relationship is platonic… Sallitt has a great ear for zesty dialogue. Whenever Mara and Jo interact, their conversations are both casually nonchalant and screwball sharp. Similarly crisp is the framing and editing, which is more expressive than we’ve come to expect from this breed of low-budget US indie filmmaking…It’s rare in cinema to see such a fine-grained portrait of friendship, particularly a spiky female one. Sallitt’s thoughtful, incisive film articulates the feeling of an intense companionship fading imperceptibly over time, and shows such relationships to be just as complex, tempestuous and painful as those of the romantic variety.” – Jamie Dunn, Sight & Sound
“The work of New York’s Dan Sallitt reaches screens so infrequently (his previous film, The Unspeakable Act, premiered in 2012) that, when it does, it only accentuates what so much American cinema lacks. His latest, Fourteen, a beautifully understated portrait of two lifelong friends (played by Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling) who slowly grow up and apart from one another, approaches female friendship and young adulthood with tenderness and a nuanced understanding of time and its passing. Again looking to the less fashionable ends of French cinema for inspiration (Maurice Pialat, mid-period Éric Rohmer), Sallitt paints an clear-eyed portrait of flawed, recognizable people, devoid of untoward drama but pitched at a level of such honesty as to unsettle with its emotional acuity.” – Jordan Cronk, Film Comment
“Sallitt’s too-infrequent filmmaking efforts, all self-funded, always feel like they come from another planet of cinema entirely from what is being made in America on either end of the budget scale. Their level of psychological penetration, dramatic concentration and narrative abruptness feels off-trend but very (and perhaps all the more so) potent… Fourteen, like the director’s last film, The Unspeakable Act (2012), is a spare and emotionally bracing drama that quickly defines full, complicated characters with roiling interiority, and puts them through bold stories that challenge their conceptions of self and our understanding of their psychologies and spirit. Like his last film, Sallitt’s latest features Tallie Medel in the lead, truly one of the most evocative and interesting actresses working in American cinema, one whose huge eyes, moppet haircut, and small stature allow for clownishly expressive behavior akin to Giulietta Masina.” – Daniel Kasman, MUBI
“As Mara, Tallie Medel, who starred in Sallitt’s incest drama The Unspeakable Act, is piercing, present and centred. As Jo, relative newcomer Norma Kuhling creates a delicate portrait of someone who seems wry and spontaneous, but who is quietly, incrementally losing her shit… There’s no Rosebud smoking gun to explain what caused her problems, and indeed Fourteen is a film that resists histrionics and over-explanation at each of its stages… Life often works the way it does in this film – chapters reveal themselves driftingly, or in hindsight, rather than with outbursts or crystallising speeches, and as we get older, we surprise ourselves with what we can get used to, whether it’s the pram in the hallway or the monkey on our back. When the tearful scene in Fourteen comes, a lot of chances have already passed by. This is a wonderful, subtly devastating film from a voice in American independent cinema that will hopefully become better known.” – Ian Mantgani, Little White Lies
“Young, cynical, endearing girls wandering around New York and its suburbs? One could think oneself on the well-known beaten path of mumblecore, that genre of neurotic intellectual comedy. The moreso as Jo, at the limit of vocal fry, actually mumbles her lines. But something is off. The conversations seem never to be for major stakes, the rhythm is suspiciously lethargic, and humor rarely breaks through as much as one would expect. There hovers over this story a coldness and especially a strange acrimony that one would think came from Korea rather than Manhattan. As if lovable craziness was leading a bit at a time to something more depressing, to outright madness.
“Gradually, what was not immediately apparent to the eye is shown more visibly: though the clues aren’t obvious, we understand that between each scene more and more time passes. Just a few minutes at the beginning, then weeks, then months … The lives of Jo and Mara take different paths. It could be a simple scenario gimmick, but Fourteen refuses melodramatic shortcuts in a radical way, and continues to show us only everyday scenes of discussion, at a street corner, in a cafe, but more and more often on the telephone.
“And paradoxically, it is by following this path that the film will become more and more dark, more and more moving. In the gaps between these discussions that become more and more strained, in the ellipses and the things not said, Fourteen draws a portrait of a friendship that comes apart with infinite sadness, an emotional shipwreck of a punishing bitterness. The result shines with a rare brilliance that breaks the heart.” – Gregory Coutaut, Le Polyester (translated from the French)
“Medel, already familiar with Sallitt’s dialogue-heavy approach from her breakout role in The Unspeakable Act, steers the film commendably, but it’s Kuhling who steals the show. She speaks in a seemingly confident yet self-revising hurry, switching erratically between assertion and confession with her awkward body language, and the hysteric quiver under her voice quietly amplifying a cry-for-help timbre.” – Patrick Gamble, CineVue
“Fourteen stars Tallie Medel – who got her first break playing the lead in The Unspeakable Act in 2012 – in a deeply felt and sympathetic lead performance… Mara, for her part, is always there for Jo and Sallitt will leave explaining the woman’s exact reasons why till late in the day, during a quietly moving scene at a bedside – by which point I was already comfortably nestled in this film’s embracing hands.” – Rory O’Connor, The Film Stage
“Sallitt generously provides enough ambiguity that viewers aren’t forced to come to any particular conclusion about these women, and Medel’s understated depth plays beautifully against Kuhling’s more bombastic performance.” – Joe Biglin, In Review Online
“Fourteen treats a modern friendship’s depth, dysfunction, and ever-changing dynamics as romantic or familial relationships are more often treated in cinema: with immense, non-judgmental compassion for its subjects and a reverence towards their bond.” – Carmen Paddock, One Room With a View
“The first surprise of the Forum, and one of the most exciting events of the Berlinale, was Fourteen, which at first seemed to be an ordinary US independent. Technically very simple (even without direction, one might say), but with a very good scenario and very good actors, this film gracefully examines the slow death of a friendship from the wounds it has received over the years. Fourteen, which seems to have come out of the golden age of US independents, is a small film that manages to strike the audience by an accumulation of small moments. Its star Tallie Medel deserves appreciation for her seamless performance, which is like Sallitt’s direction in the sense that it does not announce its existence.” – Kaan Karsan, Ekşi Sinema (translated from the Turkish)