Jane Weinstock’s new film, “The Moment,” is a fascinating and enigmatic story about a mother and daughter and the circumstances that come between them. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Lee, a war photographer who returns to the U.S. to a difficult relationship with her daughter (played by Alia Shawkat). Lee becomes involved with a man (played by Martin Henderson) who suddenly disappears, and this incident lands her in a mental hospital.
From there, as the film moves back and forth in time, the audience is left to figure out what really took place. Director Jane Weinstock and her co-writer, Gloria Norris, wrote the film from Lee’s point of view, so we never know for sure what is true and what is only how the character sees reality. In a phone interview in between screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, Weinstock told me this was absolutely intentional.
Did the story just come to you and Gloria one day, or was there something that sparked it that you can pinpoint?
I read a novel about a mother-daughter relationship that was similar to this one in a lot of ways, and that was really our starting point. I’m also very interested in photography. My husband is a photographer, so making her [Lee] a photographer was something that happened pretty early on. Then, we just brainstormed, and the process evolved as we were writing it. So much of it is coming out of our unconsciouses. It’s hard to know exactly how it happens.
What do you want to communicate with this film?
One thing I wanted to do is to explore what it’s like to be a mother, which I’m not, and to make choices that have such enormous repercussions to your family and her struggle to be a good mother and at the same time to follow a career path that she feels she has to follow.
Another thing I wanted to do was to show life in all its complexity without giving clear answers, without making things black and white. I just wanted to make a very ambiguous film that looks like life as I know it…. We all just live with our own reality, and I don’t really believe in objective reality.
I want people to come away with a lot to talk about. I want them to be arguing, for example, about what the ending means…. We’ve only had one public screening, but people have identified with very different aspects of the movie. And that’s exactly what I wanted, so I’m very pleased about that.
Did you have Jennifer Jason Leigh in mind as you were writing?
No, we didn’t really have anybody in mind. Then, our casting director suggested Jennifer, and I thought, “Wow, she’s actually really perfect for this part.” I think she’s really convincing as a war photographer and also in terms of other aspects of the character.
Yes, absolutely. I was reading your director’s notes, and that combination of strength and vulnerability that you mentioned is something she definitely has. What was it like to work with her?
She was great. She’s a writer and director herself, so she had a lot to contribute. During the rehearsal, she had comments to make about certain lines. So, we made changes to the script based on her comments. Then, when we were editing, we showed her several cuts of the film, and she had great notes for us. So, she wasn’t just an actress in this movie.
Jennifer plays a war photographer in the film. Would you like to be a war photographer?
No, it’s not my fantasy of another life. I don’t think I’m cut out for it. But I’m fascinated by it. I’m fascinated by people who could do that.
Who are your influences as a filmmaker?
I think Hitchcock is certainly an influence on this film. He made a film called “Spellbound” about a man, Gregory Peck, who is convinced that he had murdered one of his colleagues, but he couldn’t remember what had happened. The colleague was killed. That’s sort of similar to this film in that it’s about a woman who becomes convinced that she murdered her ex-boyfriend. In “Rear Window,” the main character is a war photographer. That’s another parallel as well.
There are other filmmakers I love. I’m not sure how much they influence me. [John] Cassavetes is a filmmaker I adore. He’s very different from Hitchcock. I also like French thrillers a lot. I think there are some parallels to French thrillers here.
What is it about filmmaking that you love?
It’s just my greatest love. It’s my idea of a good time – going to the movies and seeing these other worlds that I will never experience. I’ll never be a war photographer. I’ll never go to most of these places.
Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
I’m writing a film that takes place in 1970. It’s about the sexual revolution as seen through a family – a father, a mother, and a daughter.
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There is no trailer for “The Moment” yet, but below is a clip. The film doesn’t yet have a distribution deal, but that’s what the Tribeca Film Festival is for! So, keep an eye out for it.