Girl leaves boy for his girl, you love to see it.
Sophia Castuera's first feature after two indie shorts seems like a low-key affair, but it fits neatly into a canon of post-mumblecore, or a Gen Z mumblecore. It features a fumbling protagonist named Cal and played by Ali Edwards (who also wrote the script), a wanna-be actress fresh out of college who finds herself stuck between two people. Not just any people, but her childhood best friend Jay and his long-term girlfriend Emily. August at Twenty Two queers the love triangle trope and makes the most of the characters' anxieties, their hopes, and awkward daily sacrifices to climb up into each other's good books. Appearances are key, of course, since everyone's delightfully immature. The good thing is that the film knows all this very well and even sneaks a post-ironic hint or two. That said, its self-assurance is also its Achilles heel: you cannot convince me that twenty two year olds would call each other often enough to have voicemail.
Ali Edwards's performance as Cal recalls the early Greta Gerwig in her mumblecore roles with a subtle naivity, tied in with a self-destructive streak. Even though the actress debuted in a short film by Castuera, she is not just a discovery. Instead, in this film, she presents as an involved collaborator. She not only stars in the main role (and is basically on screen almost all the time, playing an unsuccessful actress), but she also is the scriptwriter of August at Twenty Two. No wonder her humor fits the character perfectly and all the embarrassing moments seem well calibrated to include everything that's ineffable about new flings. The will-they-won't-they scenes are particularly strong, as Edwards navigates a murky emotional terrain without her character openly admitting any of it. Under the cover of inarticulate desire, everything is possible.