"About Alex" is easily one of the most underrated movies on Netflix.
This independent film is dutifully raw, honest and equipped with the vernacular that forces you to think about how simple life once was, and how it never will be quite the same again.
A warning: this is not a review meant for people who have yet to view this film. It is an analysis meant for those who have seen. Although, if you don’t mind spoilers, please proceed!
I must admit, I had not seen "About Alex" (2014) until just last year. I have revisited it many times since. And I am still surprised by the lack of conversation over the movie. Or even the reviews I have seen were brash, unfair and merely focused on the less than active time line.
Like any friend group, both in reality and fictional, they’re intertwined with personal afflictions that effect one another. "About Alex" is the more than timely movie that transcribes how personal connections have changed through the digital media age. Especially friendship, in the social media driven time that is today. In which we update our lives more frequently virtually than we do through personal conversations, real life connectivity.
Posting where we are, big life announcements, and friend hangouts - this is systemically what led to the attempted suicide of Alex. His jarring tweet that starts the movies, for example. “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” An ample call for help simply over-read by his friends. Many of us are used to this public and shallow out-cry. An overt sub textual tweet plays as the much needed therapy session that we all have tried out a time or two.
The alternating dialogue that the entirety of the movie is based on, contemplates the complexities of friendships, relationships and how they relate to external factors. Like… well anything that comes with life: depression, love, wants, desires and money.
The stirrer of the group being Josh. He is the initiator and dirty realist; probing the tough-hitting topics and questions. Although harsh, they were necessary to how the audience advanced through the movie. If it weren’t for Josh being a dick, the plot nor the characters would not have reached any clarity.
This is a movie highly focused on the telling rather than the showing. Which is why it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In comparison to literature, it’s like those who prefer much dialogue and present tense, as opposed to heavy exposition and setting descriptions. The viewer is basically told what they should take away from this group. Well, that is the case until Siri and Alex sleep together.
By this point, I hope you realize that “About Alex” isn’t really about Alex. At mere glance, yes, it is. As Alex is the binding core of this group that has strayed away from each other since college. But it’s more about the survival of the friendship, the nostalgia, and the continued reflection that they can rely upon against the massive ground-swelling pit that can be life.
The quintessence of the story, the initiator, the fluidity, thrives through Ben.
For starters, the only voice over narration of the group is that of Ben. The opening consciousness is only that of the writer of the group, the guy who basically brought this group together, and more pointedly, brought Alex to not only the group but into a family that Alex had never had.
It must be noted, that the same day Ben met Alex, is the same day Ben met Siri.
It is also essential to note that not only did Ben meet both of these two strong influences of his life on the same day, he also sort of lost them. Or rather, the way he viewed them was changed, years later, in the same day as well.
The extent of their friend group was blocked for as long as Ben had writers block. At least we, as the audience, couldn’t exactly gather the meaning of this group’s timeline, and what this gathering truly meant until Ben did.
Secondly, both the climax and resolution have to do with Ben. Yes, in counterargument, they both have to deal with Alex, as well. But the only person who truly is effected and notably changed be the events is Ben. The narrated consciousness is through Ben, the only clear resolution is through Ben – this story is Ben’s.
So why the paradoxical title?
Simple. The reason for the weekend gathering was about Alex and his attempted suicide. The story is about Alex, but it is written and seen through the eyes of Ben. Ben is the narrator, writer and central consciousness. The only character that we really can see the overall effect of the story, and the resolution of it all.
Siri and Alex’s time of entrance and departure in Ben’s life was crucial to the telling of this story.
All in all, this is one of the best friendship narratives I have seen. To not only cover a single friendship, but how a group works. The evolution of the self and how that effects the connections of the past and the present.
For example, with Isaac. We see, or rather hear, of who he was when he was in college, and get to see the man he has presently changed into through the introduction of his new girlfriend.
His girlfriend is an overshadowing symbol correlating older millennial's to the younger. The ones who were forced to exit college in the U.S. when it went through the recession (older) and the one (Kate) who is coming out at the uprising of our economy. To add on that, the younger millennial's are also the drivers of the new age that is social and digital. The reason for Josh’s persistently disdainful remarks.
At any rate, they all go through something trivial. Sarah decides she’s going to open her restaurant and stop messing with douchebags (Josh). Isaac comes to the conclusion, with the help of Sarah, that he loves Kate. Josh realizes that his problem with modern society is keeping him from really enjoying his life. And Siri… well, Siri realizes she needs to leave Ben alone. And Alex realizes he should probably just be honest and say he needs his friends next time.
The acquisition here lies simply in the telling; the raw truth, the rarity that happens to be authentic friendships and the fate that brought them together.
The beginning of relationships will always be the crucial and pivotal memory that is necessary for revival. Necessary to recount before the end.
“Judgement has a way of creeping into every relationship. Even the most intimate. If we’re lucky, somewhere along the way we meet a few people who listen to us without criticism or reproach. We call those people our friends.” - Ben