The Complex

By Dane McCusker | Drama
A young woman is forced to deal with a neighbor's unwelcome advances.

Charlotte has just moved into a new apartment when her new neighbor, in an attempt to help her out, takes one of her boxes and brings it in, despite her protests. But then he lets himself into her apartment without invitation, getting on her nerves, before helping himself to the sink and then leaving.

Though discomfited by Brandon and his idea of witty banter, she thinks that’s all there is to it. But then Brandon keeps imposing himself upon Charlotte, inviting her out. But when his overfamiliarity goes too far, Charlotte must decide to draw a line.

Writer-director Dane McCusker’s incisive short drama takes viewers up close and uncomfortably personal as one woman navigates the unwanted intrusion of her personal space, both physical and emotional.

McCusker has explored the knotty territory of modern gender relations before, with his acclaimed short “Angelfish,” but has broadened his scope in terms of narrative with this short. As in that earlier short, there’s still the muted sense of almost mundane naturalism in the look and feel that gives the sense that a story like this can play out right in our neighborhood. But watching the dynamic play out between Charlotte and her new environment and neighbors offers a more wide-angle perspective on how the social infrastructure around Charlotte causes her to doubt her own emotional experience.

Both the writing and the performances are deft at capturing the nuances of social interaction and Charlotte’s personal experience. Microcurrents of fear, irritation and annoyance swirl within Charlotte — all beautifully captured by lead actress Jessica Murphy — but she’s told by friends, her mother and other neighbors that Brandon is just being friendly.

Eventually, though, Charlotte has to call on Brandon to fix her sink, and when he takes one step too close to Charlotte, she decides to assert herself — leading to an ugly confrontation and some unpleasant consequences.

From its arena of conflict to its title, “The Complex” is about space: a physical space, yes, but also how they overlay with personal and social space. The conflict in the story, both internal and external, is mapped and played out with a sharp eye for detail.

But “The Complex” deftly captures how the world around us forms an echo chamber of ideas and emotion, amplifying or muffling our inner experiences while reinforcing ideas about power, compliance and silence. And this echo chamber is given shape and presence in our lives by how they play out in the places of our lives, even in the depths of our homes, where we should feel safe from the outside world — and yet often, so many don’t.

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