Aside from being set in the general NYC tri-state area, the three interlocking, though not intersecting, stories that make up Hello Lonesome have little in common besides loneliness. And it’s a deliberately commonplace kind of loneliness. In his feature debut, writer-director-cinematographer Adam Reid follows a trio of protagonists who aren’t outcasts, hermits, or particularly socially deficient. They haven’t retreated from human contact, but their closest relationships have slipped away for various reasons, and they’re in a position where they’re going to have to reach out if they want or need people in their lives.
One of the three (Lynn Cohen) is elderly; another (Harry Chase) is in the tail end of middle age; the last (Nate Smith) is relatively young. But the setup isn’t as schematic as it sounds. Chase looms the largest, as a dissolute but successful voiceover artist who lives and works alone in a swank country house. Since his wife left him, he spends his days shooting at things in the yard, trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter via voicemail messages, and wandering around in his undies, not bothering to cover up when his only regular visitor, deliveryman Kamel Boutros, stops by with a package. Cohen’s husband died two years earlier, and when the DMV deems her no longer fit to drive the 1966 Thunderbird Coupe that’s her only other love, she’s forced to turn to her deadpan neighbor (James Urbaniak) in order to get around. And Smith’s city-dweller, who works at a cubicle farm and obsesses over sports, meets a woman (Sabrina Lloyd) through an online dating site in the narrative thread that initially seems to have the least at stake, but ends up having the most.
Hello Lonesome’s minor pleasures are rooted in its sense of understatement—an underlying conviction that everybody needs somebody sometimes plays out in mundane conversations and instances of unanticipated vulnerability. Though it can occasionally seem like an indie-dramedy answer to The Grudge, structured to pack in the maximum moments of whimsical connection instead of supernatural kills, the film does find something deeper in its treatment of Smith and Lloyd. In the promising early stages of a relationship, still discovering each other, they’re confronted with a development weighty enough to crush any romance. When it doesn’t, and unexceptional-seeming Smith shows himself to be quietly, unshowily heroic, the development speaks to a deep faith in humanity lurking beneath the film’s modest exterior.