Set in the loose confines of a Chicago black box theatre, graduate student Holly (Josephine Decker) writes and directs an adaptation of one of her favourite childhood novels in this feature film from Stephen Cone. Black Box follows the production from conception, through rehearsals and all the way to opening night, as Holly wrangles her unruly undergraduate cast and reckons with an unexpected visit from the novel’s author (Austin Pendleton). The vulnerability demanded by the creative process exposes nerves and unleashes unexplored feelings as the young ensemble grapple with the gothic, supernatural horror of Holly’s play.
The follow-up to the well-received The Wise Kids (2011), writer-director Stephen Cone again explores burgeoning queer relationships as he laces a tricky, charged narrative with sweetness, uncertainty and sex. Performances are strong across the board, with noted indie-film figure Decker (director of Thou Wast Mild and Lovely and Madeline’s Madeline) particularly impressive. The retrospective screening at Number 70 also represents the UK premiere of this slippery, inspired piece of Steven Cone’s filmography.