Out and About
When Jeff Fisher (writer/director/star Peter Callahan) goes for a walk around his old neighborhood in Hastings-on-Hudson, he will experience a microcosm of a changing American landscape while wrestling with a decision about his own new economic reality as he is “Out and About.”
Laura's Review: A-
Now here is a little movie that deserves a big audience. This winner of three regional U.S. film festivals takes the simple premise of a walk in real time and turns it into rumination on life, choices, and such existential ideas as our internal reality versus exterior perceptions. While Jeff encounters so many people - friend, foe and stranger - that his walk begins to feel like the most eventful amble in history, Callahan’s writing is so sharp, the cumulative effect leading up to the punch line of an entire subtext, that we are happy to accompany him.
A genial looking middle aged man with salt and pepper hair wearing a white tee under a short-sleeved blue plaid shirt, khaki shorts and hiking boots, Jeff begins his walk trudging up to its highest point and begins imagining the lives of those who live in his village’s best houses. Marveling that most of these now run over a million, we learn that Jeff grew up in one of these homes as he stops to offer tips to a kid shooting hoops in his driveway and talks to an older woman doing her gardening who remembers him from back in the day.
Callahan is canny in how he metes out biographical information, allowing us to glean snippets from these conversations, the urgent text messages he receives and the humorously mangled voice translations he sends to his daughter. His own inner monologue is a mix of observations, like his certainty that he and a man standing beside the aggressively large American flag hanging by his door instinctively hate each other; self doubts, like his concern that his eager friendly greetings to people of color might be its own form of racism; and compassionate regrets, like his realization that perhaps he could have been nicer to some misfortunate outsiders from his high school days. A run-in with Coach Burns (Tom Nelis) delivers some blunt truths, Jeff reacting by turning a corner to test his own stamina away from watchful eyes.
Intellectual disability is faced in Richard (Ben Gougeon), whose friendly chat with Jeff suggests echoes of repetition and which Jeff spends as much time engaging in as trying to extricate himself from, all while wondering about the man’s internal life. This encounter perhaps jogs memories of a childhood acquaintance with a more extreme handicap, and Jeff’s unguarded question of an old female classmate about the boy results in embarrassing mortification.
There will be a friendly flirtation with an old girlfriend, Paula (Bridget White), clearly the one who got away. Panic sets in when he realizes a young woman he’s just checked out is much younger than he’d thought, someone who went to school with his daughter. A casual greeting to a man doing yardwork leads to Jeff asking about Barbara (Maggie Lacey) and we’ll realize Jeff was talking to his ex-wife’s new husband, the couple living in a home that was once his. As he works his way down closer to the banks of the Hudson River, Jeff’s last encounter with a woman will be in a vastly different environment, an apartment complex he once knew as the ‘Irish flats.’
And so the man who one old friend embroiled in a series of expensive home improvements acknowledged was in a ‘contracting industry’ suddenly reveals himself as an example of downward mobility, a development he’s learned to accept while high school classmate Ron (Daniel Stewart Sherman), living in his high school football past, rants about wealthy people of color and Brooklyn hipsters changing his neighborhood. Jeff felt a little of that ostracism himself, one man threatening to call the cops because he stopped in front of his house to indulge in an old memory.
Cinematographer David Tumblety’s camera engages with the beauty of the landscape while always keeping Jeff and the people he encounters front and center, his work unobtrusive yet integral to the film’s meandering flow. Music by Jano Manzali is as soothing as the village’s verdancy and flowing river. Peter Callahan’s thoughtful work may come from the perspective of a white male liberal, but he is careful to acknowledge that as he touches upon one relatable human experience after another. “Out and About” is a must see gem.
Robin's Review: A-
A middle-aged man, Jeff Fisher (Peter Callahan), has returned to his home town to live. He takes a long walk around the old neighborhood and, in the course of the afternoon, meets those from his past, present and, maybe, future while he is “Out and About.”
Writer-director Peter Callahan guides his character, Jeff, through his walk around his old digs. He is a writer for a magazine - and we know how the paper publication business is doing these days – and has returned to his home town to live, We find out why as his free-roving mind ponders his life while he walks around, takes phone calls and talks with others, the past friends and total strangers that he meets.
Nothing really happens as Jeff walks about, thinking, reflecting and meditating on life. During his stroll he comes upon an old girlfriend, one of his former teachers, his baseball coach (who remembers Jeff as “a good kid, but lazy”) and a 19-year old girl he knew when she was a kid. He also meets, as I said, strangers, including one who lives in a house Jeff knew when he was young. The guy represents the “get off of my property and stop looking at my house” type that has evolved even more since Trump corrupted this country.
At a scant 83 minutes runtime, ‘Out and About” breezes along at about the pace of Jeff’s walk around. It is a not exactly leisurely and packed with one man’s interesting meditations on life, love, fortune and the changes going on in his own life. He realizes that, sometimes, life deals you a bad hand and Jeff is the kind of resilient being who plays it.
The writer-director-actor-star is not a household name for most of us, but his assured hold on the helm and his character’s interesting reflections on life make me want to see more – both in front of and behind the screen.
"Out and About" had a limited theatrical release on 4/1/23. Freestyle Digital Media releases it on digital HD on 5/16/23.