This Afternoon (Stephen Cone, 2014) 

Stephen Cefalu and Nikki Pierce in a scene from Stephen Cone's This Afternoon {Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival}

Stephen Cefalu and Nikki Pierce in a scene from Stephen Cone's This Afternoon {Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago International Film Festival}

Here’s a hell of premise: you accidentally walk into a sex addiction support group and end up spending the day with one of the attendees. It’s the promising start to Stephen Cone’s Chicago-based chamber drama, This Afternoon. The micro-budget film is an admirable effort with a keen ear for dialogue, a strong pair of performances, and an understanding of visual space. For a film essentially composed of exchanges between two actors (the equally impressive Stephen Cefalu and Nikki Pierce), Cone capably expresses the spaces between them in nuanced ways, carefully developing a rhythm that reshapes the physical architecture that confines his characters.

The film is clearly indebted to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, though Cone utilizes the closed space of a Westside Chicago home to realize his ambitions. The execution is there, but there’s certainly a feeling of something lost - the confinement of an automobile and then a home ultimately promote the broiling sexual tension between characters, but would the effect be entirely lost if they, um, stepped out a bit? This is coming from the perspective of a Chicagoan who yearns for a portrayal of Chicago that extends beyond its destruction (The Dark Knight, Transformers 4). As impressed as I am with Cone’s editing and his way with dialogue, This Afternoon ultimately results in a film that I would rather listen to than watch.