This is Ours, the self-assured second feature from writing/producing/directing team Kris and Lindy Boustedt, made its world premiere last night at Dances with Films in Hollywood. It’s a beautifully shot and emotionally charged foray into the world of a once-happy couple whose lives and relationship verge on disintegration.

In a similar way to the powerful indie relationship drama Blue Valentine, the Boustedts’ story gets a lot of its impact from a structure that shifts back and forth from the past to the present. The couples’ early years with a future full of possibility stretching out enticingly before them clashes dramatically with the here and now and the stagnation born of the realities of emotional and economic stress. It’s heartbreaking to see two people who once looked forward with hope and excitement now looking back on their lives with regret. Unlike Blue Valentine however, the ultimate path of Karen and Will is never completely clear cut. On one last trip to a vacation home before they lose it, the bickering couple run across a couple of free spirits Eric and Sandy. The question is whether this strange pair will help guide Karen and Will back to a life of promise or whether the chaos they represent will be the final wedge in an already damaged relationship.

On one hand, This is Ours borders occasionally on the overly blunt and on the nose, but the emotional terrain it maps out is honest, heartfelt and powerful. It has a directness and a maturity and a willingness to probe the more uncomfortable aspects of a relationship without necessarily choosing sides in the conflict.

Anchoring the film are solid performances by leads Karie Gonia and Ernie Joseph and supporting actors Wonder Russell and Mark Carr. The roles of Karen and Will are difficult because we see them during some of the darkest most uncomfortable moments of their lives, but the actors keep their characters relatable and sympathetic even in their imperfections. Russell and Carr meanwhile have a bit of an easier time of it as more naturally appealing characters, but they also introduce a vital element of humor and light.

Finally, the beautiful digital wide screen cinematography makes excellent use of the lovely Washington locations and Eric Goetz’s contemplative score nicely compliments the additional tracks by The Brooke Lee Catastrophe and The Winter Migration.

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