There’s a lot of rain in Outside In. The Pacific Northwest’s gray drips through Lynn Shelton’s eighth film, reflecting the main character’s predicament. Chris (Jay Duplass) has just been released from a 20-year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit, into a world in which he feels almost entirely alone – even the technology refuses to work with him. Neither his family nor his friends were there for him when he was put away and are barely there for him now, except for one person: Carol Beasley (Edie Falco), his high school teacher.
Beasley has been living in a sort of prison of her own, with a husband who does little more than count the days until he retires (five years to go) and a daughter (a delightful Kaitlyn Dever) who barely talks to her. Her weekly calls with Chris, who she tirelessly petitioned to get released, were her only real moment of human connection, forming a familial bond between them to replace the ones they were missing. But when Chris becomes flesh, a daily presence in her life, Beasley must decide whether to carry out her sentence or break free.
Duplass and Falco are as electric apart as they are together, their eyes in particular playing a sort of game of cat and mouse. Falco, channeling the anxious twitchiness of Nurse Jackie, externalizes the internal unrest that Duplass so adeptly just barely contains as our guileless hero. But there’s a Shelton-esque buoyancy that’s lacking here. In her comedy-dramas, the director has become a master of infusing the quotidian with a charming levity, and despite the emotional depth of Outside In, you miss it here.