Poor Gabriel– or “Gabe,” as he wants to be called. On his way home presumably after being discharged from a mental hospital, he takes a detour off his bus to search for an old girlfriend, Alice. In the process, he irks those he encounters and upsets his family, waiting to pick him up from the bus station.
If that sounds like a comedy, it’s not. Gabriel takes us along with Gabe (Rory Caulkin) through a series of episodes that reveal the extent of his illness and how it affects those around him. Nothing about this film is immediate, obvious, or predictable. Details of Gabe’s diagnosis, what led to his current state, and what happened between him and Alice (Emily Meade) are smartly scarce; these ambiguities mirror his hazy, muddled frame of mind. The upstate New York setting during winter with its drab color palette and chilly look effectively underscores the bleakness of Gabe’s situation.
Longer on character than story, Gabriel probably wouldn’t work without Caulkin, whose believeable performance makes us empathize not only with Gabe, but also his mother (Dierdre O’Connell) and older brother, Matt (David Call). For all its merits, though, I found Gabriel the character as tiresome as those around him seemed to find him by the end of the film. The ending, by the way, is appropriate even if it is frustrating.
(Gene Siskel Film Center) B-