I Play With The Phrase Each Other has the self-appointed distinction of being the first feature film composed entirely of cell phone conversations, even though one discussion is face-to-face; it’s also filmed entirely using an iPhone, in black and white, by first time writer/director Jay Alvarez, who also co-stars in this experimental film consisting of self-centered philosophical monologues that oscillate between banality and introspection, sometimes both.
Alvarez plays Sean, an incessant swindlerpoet who labels himself as the most misquoted person he knows, successfully persuading his neurotic friend, Jake (Will Hand), to leave behind his hometown and move to the city; the city, as Sean puts it, that reaches impossible states of pensive wistfulness, where they can catch drugged light-rail trains to musical basement shows, every night in some basement somewhere.
Jake sets off for the city with his cell phone delicately and compulsively dangling far from his side, with the headphone cord firmly pinched between two fingers, but upon arrival Jake discovers Sean has disappeared, leading to life of flop-houses, hostels, magnetic fields, more cell phone conversations, voice-mails, sad-sack philosophical musings, Gauss meters and failed job searches.
Jake and Sean aren’t the only characters that inhabit this modern version of Jarmuschian alienation and aimlessness through technological connectivity; Jake spends time talking to his asshole-obsessed friend, Zane (Alexander Fraser), Jake’s ex-girlfriend Erin (Megan Kopp) discusses (at length) her hate for the human species and how she would like to eliminate them, while Jake’s ex-boss, played by Robert Thrush, listens to customer rating voice-mails in his dingy, bookstore back office where one customer’s rating cuts deep into the heart of his existence.
For Jay Alvarez’s first foray into writing, directing and acting, I Play With The Phrase Each Other is a rather ambitious debut project that showcases a generous amount of burgeoning talent, despite its many flaws – the bloated run-time, unnecessary characters, some cringe-inducing dialogue and, perhaps, the most damaging of all…the film’s general tone of misogyny and male chauvinism. Every female character is presented as shallow, superficial and unintelligent. It’s appalling and unfortunately overshadows the film’s numerous positive points.