Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

Posted by Joel Copling on August 7, 2014

Asperger Syndrome is a curious condition through which to view one's surrounding (I should know, as I have it), and above all, this is where the authenticity lies in the sometimes meandering "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors." Here is a heartfelt film, blessed by edges of urgency and directed with serene grit by Sam Fleischner. There are two halves in the film, one following a boy whose aimlessness (which the film itself mirrors in these segments) trudges him through the New York City subway platforms and trains and the other tracking his mother as she restlessly wonders where he could be. It's not exactly a subtle experience, and as noted above, the experience is aimless, but Rose Lichter Marck and Micah Bloomberg's screenplay is attuned to its characters enough that the effect is sometimes palpable.

The boy with Asperger's is Ricky Garcia, played by Jesus Sanchez-Velez, a non-actor preteen also with Asperger's. Here we have the film's first bid for realism, and it pays off enormously. Sanchez-Velez is an utter natural in front of the camera; it would be no surprise if Fleischner and the young actor's coaches told him to just be his usual self, rather than to take on a fictional role, due to the fact that there is no affectation here. The segments following Ricky are gorgeous to behold, Fleischner's long takes, in conjunction with Adam Jandrup and Ethan Palmer's cinematography, truly showcasing some brilliant shots (One vertically regards passing trains through a window, and it's rather dizzying).

The other main segment of the film follows Ricky's mother, Mariana (Andrea Suarez Paz), but this is not a character who has much to do other than to worry. Granted, perhaps her situation doesn't allow that. She cleans houses and runs errands for those whose houses she cleans. Her husband, Ricardo (Tenoch Huerta), is away for the majority of the film's runtime, working upstate for unknown (possibly shady?) reasons and, for lack of motivation, is reluctant to help her search for Ricky when he wanders onto the trains after school (His sister Carla, played by Azul Zorrilla, was supposed to pick him up and didn't, and a sympathetic store owner played by Marsha Stephanie Blake helps in the searching process) and isn't seen by any family for three days (Hurricane Sandy is approaching, too, which only makes things worse).

So, yes, "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors" is extremely light on plot, wandering as Ricky wanders, but the empathy felt by (A homeless man gives Ricky a banana and, later, smiles upon recognizing him, while a Halloween-themed partier shows concern when Ricky grows weak from hunger late in the film) and for (Paz is excellent as the distressed mother, and Zorrilla is just as solid as a sister who feels a twinge of regret and then resentment) its characters. Whatever its faults, the film never judges. This is cinema as observation, told through performances and close-ups of the actors' faces. It may be aimless and sort of thin, but it's also quite affecting.

Film Information

Andrea Suarez Paz (Mariana), Jesus Sanchez-Velez (Ricky), Azul Zorrilla (Carla), Tenoch Huerta (Ricardo Sr.), Marsha Stephanie Blake (Carmen).

Directed by Sam Fleischner and written by Rose Lichter-Marck and Micah Bloomberg.

No MPAA rating.

102 minutes.

Released in select cities on May 23, 2014.