One of my favorite films of last year also was one of the quirkier that I saw - Sword of Trust, which was directed and co-written by Lynn Shelton. It was an odd but appealing movie that centered around a sword that several of the movie's characters believed would prove that the South won the Civil War. (Like I said. Quirky.) I originally saw it because it starred Marc Maron, whose "WTF" podcast I am a big fan of, but I found myself admiring of how Sword of Trust found the humanity in each of its slightly off-kilter characters.
I wrote about it here, and then sort of filed it away in my mental hard drive. But it came right back into the forefront of my memory less than a week ago with the news that Lynn Shelton, who did such good work in the movie, had passed away at age 54 of some sort of previously undiagnosed blood disorder. In perusing the obits, I found that not only had Shelton directed a number of highly thought of independent films, but she'd also directed a lot of television as a way of honing her craft and keeping herself on sound stages. I found out that she'd come to directing fairly late, at age 40. And I found out that she was in both a professional and romantic partnership with Marc Maron, who is a delightfully cranky comic with a skewed and ironic world view; for some reason, I found that interesting and unexpected.
Then, I listed to a "WTF" podcast that Maron did immediately after Shelton's death. His grief was raw and powerful as he related their last moments together - it was extraordinary radio. And then he played an interview he'd done with Shelton back in 2015 - it was the first time they'd met, and as they discussed her career to that point, it seemed as if we were hearing some sort of unique connection being made. (That may be projection, since I knew they'd become romantic, but it just felt that way.)
After that, I found one of Shelton's earlier films ' Touchy Feely, which I thought was a finely observed little film about people in Seattle (Shelton's home town) who were finding second and third lives - sometimes together, sometimes apart. At the center of the film is Rosemarie DeWitt, playing a massage therapist who suddenly finds herself with an aversion to touching people. There are some wonderful supporting turns by Ellen Page and the great Allison Janney (who seems incapable of giving a bad performance). Touch Feely may be even more quirky than Sword of Trust, but at its core it seems sharply observed, gently distilled, and rooted in a certain kind of reality.
There are more Lynn Shelton movies that I now need to see. Humpday. Your Sister's Sister. Laggies. Outside In. I already know it will be rewarding to discover her talent, and sad to realize there won't be any more Lynn Shelton movies.