Highlights how beautiful life can be yet with the help of a well structured narrative; the storyline illustrates the ugliness that sometimes can creep through.
From the first few seconds into the opening sequence of Transatlantic Coffee, I was hooked. The beautiful shots, the soulful melody of Alix Paige and expert use of lighting all blend together perfectly in setting the tone for this wonderful New York original.
We notice right away that the man sitting in a carefree New York City blues bar is troubled. His edgy disposition accompanied by jarring images of distant or recent memories flash on and off screen against the tempo of the music, portrays a man burdened with repressed thoughts that are invading his mind. As the opening sequence ends with a very high pitched drawn out noise, a speeding train races past a block of apartments, sharply bringing us back to Alex’s morose reality.
The film begins quite slowly, establishing Alex (Kevin Pinassi) as a depressive, drunken man whose choice of employment, (providing entertainment as a clown), contrasts with his disdain for life and sullen nature. His longing desire to find someone that will allow him to escape from the constant loneliness he has submitted himself to, is where his story begins.
Over the course of this film, we’re given the opportunity to tread in the footsteps of this lonely man’s quest to feel love again. Set just a month after 9/11, Alex’s story serves as a metaphor for the trauma New York citizens dealt with after the attack. The city itself; grey and in stasis, Alex also seems somewhat out of touch from reality. His hostility towards life, towards his family and his only friend are a result of his disconnection from society.
Early into Transatlantic Coffee we discover Alex has met a teenage girl from London online and has asked her to stay with him in The Big Apple. Mandie (Rachel Marie Lewis) is a high spirited stripper with a lust for living life to the fullest; a juxtaposing element to Alex’s depressive lifestyle. Nevertheless, the couple spend several weeks together, bonding over different aspects of each other’s personalities, and things begin to look up for Alex. The film however, constantly reminds us of how conflicting the individuals are.
A very poignant scene shows Alex and Mandie sat awkwardly making small talk to break the ice after weeks and weeks of relying on the social barrier of internet messaging. Alex, not wanting to give much of himself away, is hesitant to talk. Mandie on the other hand, makes herself comfortable as soon as she enters his apartment. As the airy tension between them rises, the music in the background becomes more dominant and Alex begins to describe how he associates music to memories, he feels that “music is the one way you can capture a moment” – this, to me, is just the epitome of his character and of the film. Music is very apparent in Transatlantic Coffee; it consistently sets the tone, the atmosphere and the mood of each character and each scene highlighting how Alex sees each moment of his life.
Alongside the usage of musical and visual cues, Transatlantic Coffee also utilizes the concept of individual perception to explore another predominant theme; that of Alex and Mandie’s attraction to one another despite their rather overwhelming differences. Alex, during a memorable moment whilst they stand looking over Manhattan at night, tells Mandie he is colour blind. Mandie responds with “I’m so sorry…it must be horrible living in a city like New York and not being able to enjoy the colour and vibrancy of it all” to which Alex states, “Not really, it’s all I’ve ever known” – from this brief conversation we get to understand the characters a little better. With Alex’s depressive nature and Mandie’s colourful outlook on the world, they are ‘different in their own way’.
As the film progresses differences melt between the two. Mandie paints a picture for a close friend back home in England, when Alex sees this painting he realizes he can see colour. He associates this new profound ability with the love he holds for Mandie and is therefore awakened from his black and white world; this reinforces Alex’s need for her to be a part of his life.
The sexual tension between the two characters is admitted very early on, however Alex is hesitant to act upon his desires. The film pushes you to feel how real every situation is throughout the story and how the relationship shared between the two, is full of genuine emotion. Every glance, touch and embrace feels so honest and meaningful that all your senses tell you it’s real.
Transatlantic Coffee is a beautiful independent picture directed and written by Erik Peter Carlson. It focuses on visual energy and atmosphere created by spectacular cinematography, scenic locations, choreography and costume designs. The script highlights how beautiful life can be yet with the help of a well-structured narrative; the storyline illustrates the ugliness that sometimes can creep through. The subtle flashbacks from Alex’s memories and out of place lines were suggestive to the films conclusion, nevertheless they were almost unnoticeable. An almost flawless motion picture, Transatlantic Coffee is an independent wonder, enriched with fantastic colour, unforeseen twists and occasional eroticism.