Lymelife is an odd but occasionally effective indie film from 2008. Taking place in 1979, the film tells the story of two brothers living on Long Island. The older brother, Jimmy Bartlett (Kieran Culkin) has recently graduated from high school and is preparing to enter the army. (We hear that he’s going to be shipped off to fight in a war against Argentina, which is odd because, to the best of my knowledge, the U.S. has never been at war with Argentina.) The younger brother is 15 year-old Scott (Rory Culkin), a gentle boy who loves Star Wars and who is doted on by his overprotective mother, Brenda (Jill Hennessy). Scott’s relationship with his father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin), is far less positive with Mickey feeling that his youngest son is weak and Scott resenting the fact that Mickey is always cheating on Brenda.
As the film opens, a recent outbreak of Lyme Disease has got everyone in a panic. Brenda, in particular, is terrified that Scott is going to get bitten by a tick and refuses to let him go outside unless every inch of his skin is covered and protected. Causing Brenda even more panic is the fact that their neighbor, Charlie Bragg (Timothy Hutton), has contracted the disease and has lost his job as a result. Now, he spends all of his time either outside trying to hunt deer or hiding down in his basement. His wife (Cynthia Nixon) is forced to take a job from Mickey in order to support the family and soon, she and Mickey are having an affair.
In fact, the only person who doesn’t completely shun Charlie is Scott, though this is largely because Scott has, for years, had a crush on Charlie’s daughter, Adrianna (Emma Roberts). Adrianna finally starts to return Scott’s affection but then Charlie discovers the truth about his wife’s job with Mickey and things … well, things do not end happily.
Lymelife is a strange film, one that at times almost plays like a parody of a typical indie film. This is one of those films where a lot of things happen but you’re not always quite sure why they happened and ultimately, it’s hard not to feel like the film is essentially a collection of loosely related scenes, all looking for a stronger narrative. But, with all that in mind, I still like Lymelife. Director Derik Martini brings such an intense and humanistic touch to the film’s dangerously quirky storyline and it’s such an obviously personal film that it becomes fascinating in its own way. Not surprisingly, both Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy overact in their roles (and considering that they have the most melodramatic lines, that’s not always a good thing) but, fortunately, Timothy Hutton, Emma Roberts, and the Culkin Brothers all give excellent performances.
Plus, the film’s ending is absolutely haunting, largely because of the wise use of the song Running Out Of Empty, which can be heard below.