NJ Film Fest Review: ‘Here We Are’ is a sweet, offbeat love story

Here We Are review

Olivia Grace Applegate and Alex Dobrenko co-star in “Here We Are.”

Do people still use the word “slacker”? I’m not sure, but I’m going to use it anyway, because I can’t think of a better way to describe Andy, the unlikely hero of the movie “Here We Are,” which will be shown Feb. 2 at the New Jersey Film Festival in New Brunswick.

As played by Alex Dobrenko, Andy wanders through post-college life in Austin, Texas … hanging out with his buddies, making a little money here and there, trying to hang onto his clearly disinterested girlfriend, Haley (Amanda Hays). He dreams of becoming a professional writer, but is light years away from being able to make a living in this way. He always seems disheveled, and has a look in his eyes like he’s having trouble seeing something through a wall of fog.

Haley breaks up with him and, hearing of an opportunity to make a decent amount of money, he signs up to be a Guinea pig in a medical research facility. He’s got to stay there for weeks, sleep there, and follow their rules. It’s a creepy, frightening place that looks clean and corporate but may still remind some viewers of the mental institution in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” complete with an evil nurse, Don (Jaytyler Ferretti).

But while undergoing the medical trial, Andy meets Misty (Olivia Grace Applegate), who is not only gorgeous, but is also an aspiring writer, like Andy … and someone whose life is a bit of a mess, like Andy.

It’s not love at first sight, though. “So do you come here often?” Andy asks, making fun of his own awkwardness. She looks surprised for a moment, but gets that it’s a joke, and smiles.

“Here We Are,” ultimately, becomes as sweet as it is shaggy. Not a rom-com, per se, but a story about two lost souls who build a connection to each other in the unlikeliest of places.

Director-writer David Bellarosa, an Essex County native, creates a strong sense of atmosphere throughout, both in the hovels and dives where Andy hangs out, and the chilly confines of the research center. And his ending is well balanced, holding out hope for the future of his central couple’s relationship without becoming unrealistic or overly sentimental.

“Here We Are” will be shown at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at Voorhees Hall #105 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, along with the short “Queenie and the All or Nothing Thin King.” The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with director-writer David Bellarosa. Visit njfilmfest.com.

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