By Alec Deacon
‘‘These are my finger nails and toe nails… when I get nervous I keep them…’’
Fear, Love And Agoraphobia is an unexpectedly thoughtful, and somewhat out-of-place tale on the small screen, just released via VOD amidst The Rock’s Rampage and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War big screen battles. The story that does exactly what it says on the tin, Fear, Love And Agoraphobia, is an alternative the those big bucks action blockbusters and is an honest look into the life of two people, warts and all, a low-key Indie comic drama for those types of people who see the world a little differently from everyone else.
After a cheeky opening revolving around our lead psyching himself up to enter a bank, hood up and wearing a full face gas-mask, leaving the audience to question what his intentions are exactly, former radio personality and all-rounder in the fields of, writer, producer, director, editor and actor, Alex D’Lerma brings us the story of Chet (Dustin Coffey), a solemn 28-year-old agoraphobic man (he has a fear of being outside) who still lives with his mother, but who leaves him in the opening scenes, believing a clean break is what her son Chet, needs to rattle him from his condition.
Subsequently, Chet meets Maggie (Linda Burzynski), a woman he brings in as a house mate to help him survive after his mother’s abrupt departure. However, Maggie is a volatile female ex-Marine with a husband in prison and her own fair share of personal demons. Actress Linda Burzynski actually served in the Marine Corps before pursuing her acting career and it shows, especially in the moments when her character Maggie has explosions of extreme behaviour when dealing PTSD. That real world experience Burzynski, defiantly adds a visceral edge to those scenes.
From Chet and Maggie’s first meeting, Fear, Love And Agoraphobia takes on a wistful air, one that’s less about destinations and dramatic turns and more about conversations and shared experiences. Maggie is vibrant, direct and unfazed, while Chet is kind, and quietly reserved, together they stumble their way towards a common ground, not so much romantic, as epiphany and understanding for one another. Fear, Love And Agoraphobia less about sexual chemistry and attraction and more about simple connection.
As characters try to figure out how to cope and identify what matters most to them, there’s a fair bit of uninhibited behaviour, led by Maggie and indulged (sometimes for the first time) by Chet from excessive drinking to casual sex and desperate hook-ups. However all that said, the movie’s focus is much less on the conclusion to these moments and much more on finding clarity and peace.
Fear, Love And Agoraphobia is not a love story, it is a contemplation on life and on what it is we value. Do we cling to our routines even as we realise the pointlessness of doing so, if only because it’s those routines that we value? Do we throw caution to the wind, let our ideas run wild, and soak up as much hedonistic experiences as possible before we expire? Or do we seek out comfort, someone with whom we can connect and bond as the lights flicker back on in a darkened soul? Despite being peppered with some moments of bleakness and despair Fear, Love And Agoraphobia is actually very sweet and gentle; yes, sweet, but not too heavy-handed in its delivery and approach.
A moment must be taken to mention the sound design in Fear, Love And Agoraphobia, used from the very being to emphasise Chet’s fear of the outside world where every little sound is amplified from the very start and slowly, as the Chet grows, the soundtrack subsides and quietens, suggesting Chet is eventually learning cope and to focus more on what matter. It is a rather subtle piece of production but a wonderful piece of production and attention to detail none the less.
Some ideas do feel a little half formed in parts, but with Lori Petty’s extended cameo as exasperated bar owner, Frances, dropping in at key points in the narrative to push our characters in the right direction like a wonderful fowl mouthed fairy-godmother, ultimately Fear, Love And Agoraphobia is an out-of-the-ordinary exercise in contemplation. For better or worse, the fact that it occasionally wanders from one moment to another, allows sufficient time for thoughtfulness.
It helps to be reminded, now and again, of how just hard the act of living can be sometimes, to face the world and carry its weight day after day, while at the same time trying to know your place in it, and the joy of finding the reason to keep going. Now and again people need the kind of stories like Fear, Love And Agoraphobia, to remind them how scary and complex and miraculous it is to be alive and to feel and to fear and to love.