Borderline Week

Robert Pattinson in Antonio Campos’s The Devil All the Time (2020)

In 2003, Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, and Josh Mond met at NYU, hit it off and formed a production company, Borderline Films, whose short films and features have been picking up awards at Cannes, Sundance, and beyond ever since. This week, as Campos’s The Devil All the Time begins streaming on Netflix and Durkin’s The Nest heads to theaters, contributors to the A.V. Club have been revisiting some of Borderline’s most memorable movies.

While all three filmmakers take on rotating roles on each other’s projects, Campos is the one with the longest list of directorial credits. He was the first to win a prize in Cannes (for his 2005 short, Buy It Now, about a teenage girl selling her virginity on eBay) and the first to direct a feature. Afterschool (2008) opens with Robert (Ezra Miller, fourteen at the time) watching viral videos, and as Mike D’Angelo reminds us, YouTube had launched just a little over years before. For D’Angelo, the “greatness” of Afterschool “lies primarily in the forthright way that it tackles the twenty-first century’s most important subject: mediation. It was the first movie that seemed to register just how drastically certain aspects of American society had changed within the span of a few years, constructing a portrait of Generation YouTube (one appropriately set in high school, but encompassing all ages) that’s somehow both compassionate and merciless—which is to say, utterly true.”

When Jada Yuan profiled the Borderline guys for New York in 2011, she spoke with Miller as well. “Sean is a huge-hearted, sharp-brained leprechaun,” he told her. “Antonio is a fire-breathing, ax-wielding dwarf; Josh is the devilishly goateed gangster. They form, like, this complementary trinity where all three of them can at any time step into the necessary shoes of the hard-ass producer; the kind, emotional coach to whoever is having a crisis; the very severe, disconnected-from-reality, connected-to-the-artwork director. Borderline is almost like one man that is three. Biblical shit.”

The occasion for Yuan’s profile was the theatrical release of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which not only scored Durkin a directing award at Sundance but also Borderline’s first big distribution deal (Fox Searchlight had picked it up at the festival for around $1.6 million). Martha features Elizabeth Olsen in her first lead role as well as Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Borderline regular Brady Corbet, and John Hawkes, whose performance as the leader of a cult Martha escapes from, “like the film as a whole, is as striking for what it avoids as for what it contains,” writes Laura Adamczyk.

In 2015, Mond directed his first and so far only feature, James White, with Christopher Abbott as “the trust fund kid from hell,” as Randall Colburn puts it, and Cynthia Nixon as James’s mother. She’s slowly dying of cancer and James acts on any excuse he can find to avoid caring for her. “You won’t like James White,” writes Colburn. “You won’t want to comfort him or hang out with him. You will, however, be yanked into his orbit, rocky though it may be.” The film won audience awards in Sundance and at the AFI Fest.

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