Directed by: Edward Burns
Written by:Edward Burns
Starring: Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Farina, Heather Graham, David Krumholtz, Brittany Murphy, Stanley Tucci
Released: May 23, 2002
Grade: A-

You know, just talking to someone one-on-one is an under appreciated part of life.  As humans, we instinctively interact with others looking for somebody to connect with.  One who we love listening to and one who loves listening to us - that kind of person who gives us a sense a purpose and belonging.  It’s this intangible of life that writer-director Edward Burns explores in his latest film, Sidewalks Of New York.

Nice-guy Tommy (Burns) has just been dumped by his girlfriend and kicked out of his apartment.  At a video store, he meets Maria (Dawson) and exchanging numbers, they agree to meet up.  Maria has been divorced for a year from Benny (Krumholtz) and only now is finding the courage to tackle a new relationship.  Benny however, is still hung up on Maria and wants to get back together.

Confronted by Maria’s ability to move on, Benny meets Ashley (Murphy) in a cafe and asks her out.  The two seem sweet together but Ashley is having an affair with a married man, Griffin (Tucci), who is twenty years her elder.  Their relationship is purely sexual and Ashley feels trapped but her innocence and lack of experience sees her continue this hopeless pursuit in lieu of Benny.  Griffin’s wife, Annie (Graham), suspects her husband of six years is sleeping around but hates the idea of divorce and thinks it will work out.  She works as a real estate agent and is currently helping Tommy find a place to live.

If you’ve understood the complexity of the above, you’ll see the circle that has been formed.  Tommy likes Maria who is divorced from Benny who wants Ashley but who is sleeping with Griffin behind the back of Annie who is helping Tommy.  Set against the backdrop of New York, it sounds like a screwball Woody Allen comedy.  Not so.  It’s a lightheartedly insightful look and love, sex and relationships.

Each story is worth hearing.  I’m a huge fan of films that don’t limit themselves to one storyline and with Sidewalks Of New York having six, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be bored.  For most of the flick, we’re just watching people interact.  We’re looking at their reactions and emotions for hints to gauge how they really feel.  It’s shot like a glossed-up documentary with the film frequently interrupted by an unseen interviewee asking our cast questions about themselves.  It’s not an original idea but it’s perfect for the film’s style and makes it feel real.

Writer-director-actor Ed Burns isn’t from the Hollywood style of thinking.  Born in New York, he came out of nowhere when in 1994 he made his first film, The Brothers McMullen, for just $238,000.  The film was shot on weekends (since he had to work during the week) and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.  Sidewalks Of New York is exactly what I would expect from Burns - a film that refuses to be routine and provides both entertainment and something to take away.

Filled with lots of memorable quotes (including Ed Burns’s final epilogue) and an expertly assembled cast, Sidewalks Of New York is a so muchly needed breath of fresh air.  A chance to relax, forget about yourself and let six other people do the talking.  The great thing being, these people are worth listening to.