BREAKING UPWARDS may not be a perfect movie, but it’s a good start for Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones who wrote, directed and starred in the low-budget rom-com based on their own relationship. To keep the film to its $15,000 budget Daryl also edited and the cast worked virtually for free (or in some cases for the SAG $100/day minimum) and supplied their own wardrobe, hair and makeup.
Unfortunately, the story behind the movie and the awe-inspiring lengths to which the filmmakers went to get it made is more interesting than the film itself, which goes something like this: After 4 years of dating Daryl, Zoe is starting to get bored, but she isn’t quite ready to break-up. Daryl, too, isn’t all that opposed to seeing other people. Their solution? Institute visitation rights. If they see one another only 4 days a week, for example, they can gradually work their way down to 3 days, then 2 and 1 until abracadabra, they have broken up painlessly. As you can guess their plan doesn’t work quite as smoothly as this. They start seeing other people, jealously ensues and their confused parents get in the way.
Daryl and Lister-Jones commented that they were striving for a movie with a NY-centric, Woody Allen feel, but one of the main differences between BREAKING UPWARDS and films like MANHATTAN or HANNAH AND HER SISTERS is that the motivations of Allen’s characters are clear and, like any well-written story, every scene serves to advance the plot or inform the narrative. In BREAKING UPWARDS, we’re not clear what Zoe or Daryl really want. There are a few scenes that begin to hit at the truth, like when Zoe decides to stay behind at a karaoke bar with a guy she’s just met instead of going home with Daryl, but even those moments are never fully realized and get buried under too much empty dialogue between the couple and their parents, who are in the movie too much to do so little for it. Even on a shoestring budget the flaws, remarkably, do not lie in the production value but in the writing, which is cursory and affords the characters an inexplicable happy-go-lucky air during what is supposed to be one of the greatest moments of turmoil in their young lives.