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Once filmmaker Gillian Robespierre gets down to it, this sophomore effort reveals surprisingly affecting layers.

Robespierre, who broke onto the indie scene with the quite wonderful Obvious Child, reunites with the terrific star of that film, Jenny Slate, looking here at infidelity and its impact. Set in 1990s Manhattan, we get a flavorful flash back to phone booths, eyebrow piercings and the heroin club scene as well as the timeless theme of hearts that hurt, bond and heal.

Clearly, we are in some pretty serious territory, dealing with issues Robespierre and co-writer Elisabeth Holm handle with understanding and compassion. I wish they had not felt obliged to start off with jokey markers, not so gently reminding us this is a period piece, using very 21st Century humor. Once all that stuff goes away, and we get into the meat of the matter, the film blossoms into something quite more delicate and memorable. No family, no matter what year it is, handles betrayal with ease. Why should they? Watching this one go through it is familiar, sad and, ultimately, reassuring.

As a director, Robespierre tells her ambitious story well and seems especially adept with her actors, both the new (Abby Quinn) and veteran (Edie Falco, John Turturro). All bring us characters we come to actually care about, even if we don’t care for a lot of what they are up to. It’s always a treat to see Jay Duplass, who makes the most out of every, even sketchily written, character he’s given. And Slate, too, manages, once those “make-em-laugh” moments are behind her, to make us see how and why even good girls can sometimes break out hearts.

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