Get our free newsletter
“You decide what goes in the frame,” Sophie advises her photography class in November. “But it’s also important what stays out.” Director Greg Harrison and scripter Benjamin Brand obviously believe those words wholeheartedly—even if they do come from Courteney Cox. Stylishly recalling other time-twisting memory puzzlers such as Memento and Mulholland Drive, November is more about hiding the narrative than revealing it. The story focuses on Sophie, who’s recovering from the traumatic event that opens the film: the death of her boyfriend, Hugh (James LeGros), in a convenience-store robbery gone wrong. (If only she hadn’t wanted that after-dinner chocolate…) Sophie is shown trying to go on with her life, visiting a psychiatrist for seemingly stress-related headaches as well as her guilt over a recent affair with a co-worker. But when a slide of the convenience store, developed two days after the robbery and shot the night Hugh died, mysteriously shows up in one of her student’s presentations, it becomes apparent that Harrison and Brand’s reality cannot be trusted. November is divided into chapters titled “Denial,” “Despair,” and “Acceptance,” three of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ famed five stages of dying, and in each we get variations of the film’s major events, from the crime itself to the dinner Sophie has with her mother (Anne Archer). Shot and edited on digital video for a reported $150,000, November belies its budget, with Harrison lacing the often-silent film with plenty of creepy touches—a staticky, incomprehensible phone call, the amplified creaks of an apartment that’s unexpectedly lost one of its occupants, images of red blood cells and a green field that flash when Sophie is in mental-patient mode. OK, maybe it’s all a bit tired. But the film’s whole fractured-reality, rewind-again story is executed divertingly, and Cox nicely sheds her Friends persona to portray the thoughtful but increasingly freaked-out Sophie. Ultimately, November has just enough both inside and outside the frame to hold your interest—and at a compact 73 minutes, it runs out of time well before you can run out of patience.