Starting Out in the Evening

Institute History

  • 2007 Sundance Film Festival


Andrew Wagner returns to Sundance with Starting Out in the Evening, a quietly intense, superbly realized drama about erudite New Yorkers who tug on each other's vulnerabilities as they strive to actualize individual promise at three different stages of life.

Leonard Schiller is a decorous, 70-year-old, out-of-print novelist who carefully shelters himself to complete the book he's been laboring over for a decade. When Heather, a brash bookish graduate student, enters the scene, she punctures Leonard's solitude and order with her determination to mine his life for her thesis. As she prods his boundaries to uncover deeper meanings in his work, Leonard is both shaken and emboldened. Meanwhile, Leonard's daughter, Ariel, is nearing 40 and intent on having a child. Like her father, she invites a distraction into her life that seems to divert her from her primary purpose. And while father and daughter attempt to shield each other from pain, it is only in the freedom to take risks that their lives move forward.

Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, and Lili Taylor's three-dimensional performances make full use of intelligent, rich material, infusing each character with a keen sense of self-awareness. Especially extraordinary are the unpredictable tangles between Langella and Ambrose, when aging humility and youthful conceit lock horns, and the value of an examined life is put to the test.

— Caroline Libresco

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