The coronavirus pandemic disrupted, among many other parts of life, how people communicate. As conversations migrated to Zoom, nonverbal gestures — eye contact and subtle facial expressions — were harder to discern, making it more difficult to talk about needs and set necessary boundaries. As of Yet, a new film directed by Taylor Garron and Chanel James, delightfully, if slightly predictably, tackles those challenges.
Like many New Yorkers, Naomi (Taylor Garron) has spent the early days of the pandemic trying to stave off boredom by cobbling together a routine, leaning into retail therapy and dressing up just to feel alive. She dances around her apartment, cooks semi-elaborate meals, FaceTimes with her family and schedules virtual happy hours with her friends and cousin. She’s also started a video diary, although she’s not really sure why.
As of Yet
The Bottom Line
A refreshing lesson in pandemic communication.
We meet Naomi in her apartment in Brooklyn on the 83rd day of quarantine. The city has just gone through the worst of the pandemic’s first wave, the weather is warming and there is optimism and restlessness in the air. Naomi, through her video diary entry, tells us about the new fake eyelashes she bought, about missing her roommate and friend, Sara (Eva Victor), who’s holed up in Florida with her parents, and about her growing feels for Reed (Amir Khan), a man she met on a dating app. Right before she traps herself in an anxious spiral concerning the future, Naomi ends the recording, and the film begins in earnest.
As of Yet is constructed almost exclusively with video calls of varying degrees of quality, a format we’ve seen successfully done before in other pandemic films (like Language Lessons). Garron, who penned the script, has written for satirical websites such as The Onion and Reductress. As a result, she’s mastered a particular kind of millennial-speak, one in which life is lived and processed as a series of extended bits. Naomi’s first conversation with Sara veers between earnestness, biting jabs and self-aware observations dripping with sarcasm. Sara describes how she’s regressed to her teenage self since moving back home, and Naomi laments all the rich people on their block who escaped to their summer houses. “Like me,” Sarah beams.
The jokes end, however, when Naomi tells Sara that she wants to meet Reed for an in-person date at the park. Sara immediately expresses her disapproval, citing rules about staying indoors and wondering aloud about the optics of it all. Naomi, in shock, counters her friend by trying to point out her hypocrisy: “Things are pretty open down there,” she notes, referring to Florida’s lax rules around COVID-19. “I saw, I think it was a couple of weeks ago, you posted on your Instagram a video of you and your hometown friends at that bar.”
The heated exchange ends unresolved and sets the tone of the film, which chronicles Naomi’s efforts to stand up to Sara. This is where As of Yet gets interesting, hauntingly realistic in its portrayal of how people overwhelmingly fail at talking to each other.
The film doesn’t pander to easy narratives of good or bad people; instead, it focuses on the messy, imperfect ways we relate to one another — how old friends fall into comfortable and at times unhealthy dynamics and how difficult it can be to change them.
Naomi solicits advice on what to do about Sara from everyone in her life — from her fierce cousin (Paula Akpan) to her stern but loving best friends (played wonderfully by Quinta Brunson and Ayo Edebiri) — and then proceeds to take none of it. It’s a familiar position for most avoidant communicators (myself included), wherein talking circles around the situation seems much easier than, you know, actual confrontation.
And, of course, Naomi’s issues with Sara aren’t really about the date. They run deeper: Sara, who is white, often acts entitled and possesses a superficial self-awareness, relying on Naomi to keep her in check. Naomi, on the other hand, struggles to keep it real and reflexively subverts her own needs to keep the peace.
The film is charming, thanks in large part to the talented actors and the ease with which they play off each other. Brunson and Edebiri, in particular, provide some laugh-out-loud moments during their video chat with Naomi. The young women seamlessly move from cracking jokes to reflecting on the protests they attended to dispensing cogent advice about how Naomi can talk to Sara.
Garron and Victor’s portrayal of friends who are struggling to understand each other’s point of view is refreshingly honest and appropriately cringey. Conversations are at the heart of As of Yet, and Garron manages to capture how they ebb and flow with the different rhetorical quirks people develop. There are times when the dialogue, in an attempt to provide context, becomes too expository and rings clunky. And there’s a chance that some may find this film — with its Very Online jokes and seemingly endless irony and self-deprecation — too meta in its portrayal of anxious, imperfect millennials living through unprecedented times. For me, those qualities were indicative of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it all the more fun to watch.