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Film / About Alex

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"Judgement has a way of creeping into every relationship, even the most intimate. If we're lucky, somewhere along the way we meet a few people who listen to us without criticism or reproach. We call those people our friends."
Judgement has a way of creeping into every relationship, even the most intimate.
About Alex is a 2014 American, drama, independent film written and directed by Jesse Zwick. It follows five friends from college (and one last minute addition), as they reunite in a remote house in the countryside after five years to support their friend Alex, who just survived a suicide attempt. The film deals with the relationships and unresolved issues between the main characters, as they deal with how their lives have changed since they met in college. The following are a list of characters as they appear.

  • Ben (Nate Parker) and Siri (Maggie Grace). A married couple who are at forking career paths, as well as a possible pregnancy from Siri, and Ben dealing with a bout of writer's block.
  • Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), an unfulfilled and lonely A&M attorney coming off a slew of failed relationships.
  • Josh (Max Greenfield), a bitter PhD candidate and Sarah's occasional lover.
  • Isaac (Max Minghella), a successful businessman, and his new girlfriend Kate (Jane Levy), who is a few years younger than the rest and has not met any of them previously.
  • The titular Alex (Jason Ritter) a depressed actor whose career fizzled out in Los Angeles, forcing him to move back to his parents' house in the countryside. In the opening moments of the film, he attempts suicide by cutting his wrists.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Kate turns out to be this. She can successfully counsel a suicidal person by phone while exhausted and high as a kite, apparently with minimal effort.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Subverted. The characters treat Kate and Isaac as if they have one. She is younger than him, but by at most eight years (the actors have a five year age difference).
  • Always Someone Better: A contributing factor to Alex's depression. All his closest friends have had career success (except for Josh, who is completing his PhD), while his acting career fell apart and he had to move into his parents' country house.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Ben seems to think so. He and Siri's marital issues come rushing back when it turns out she isn't pregnant.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sarah and Josh.
    Kate: I thought they hated each other.
    Isaac: They do and they don't. It's a weird game they play.
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  • Bungled Suicide: The opening implies Alex screwed up cutting his wrists, or it was an Interrupted Suicide. Later averted. He called an ambulance after cutting an artery, as he realized the act was a cry for help and he didn't want to die.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alex is on the road to recovery and as a new job, Isaac has recommitted himself to Kate and is helping Sarah start her restaurant, and Ben has gotten over his writer's block. However, Ben and Siri are taking time apart and she isn't pregnant, and Josh is still stuck with a worthless and very expensive degree.
  • Character Shilling: A major plot point. All the characters gush over how awesome Ben's writing is, but this actually makes him deeply insecure as he hasn't been able to write anything in a year, and really doesn't want to talk about it. In fact Alex constantly asking about it got on his nerves so much that he began ignoring Alex, even when he was clearly depressed. Leads to a My God, What Have I Done? moment when he realizes pushing Alex away contributed to his suicide attempt.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kate's work at a Suicide Hotline. While she never has to use the requisite skills to talk Alex down, she does offer him a job at the hotline in the end as a way of coping with his depression.
  • Commitment Issues: Josh and Isaac have them. Isaac gets over it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Josh excels at this, but it is not Played for Laughs.
  • A Degree in Useless: Implied to be one of the causes of Josh's Jerkass tendencies. He's the only one of the group still in school, trying to finish his PhD, and the recent recession has caused him to think he has very little shot at a secure future.
  • Driven to Suicide: Averted. The characters spend most of the movie angsting over whether or not their treatment of Alex caused him to try and kill himself. It turns out that, while Ben ignoring him was a contributing factor, the responsibility falls squarely on Alex's shoulders and is based on his mental health, not the way the world treats him.
  • Friends with Benefits: Sarah and Josh had this relationship in college, and continue it on and off into adulthood. She finally breaks it off in the end.
  • Group Picture Ending: The final scene begins with a group shot (including the dog) as all the friends separate after the life changing weekend, before flashing back to their first meeting with Alex in college.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Part of Alex's depression comes from dealing with his college friends moving and growing apart. He admits that his suicide attempt was a cry for help from the people he feels have abandoned him.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Sarah's first tryst with Josh is clearly audible to everyone in the house.
  • Informed Attribute: Several:
    • Ben's writing ability. Apparently he was the youngest writer published in the New Yorker ever, but has been suffering from writer's block for the past year. After he gets over it we hear precisely three sentences of his writing. It comes off as... less than profound.
    • Sarah's cooking ability. Multiple characters comment on how delicious Sarah's food is, despite the fact that she only makes two dishes, and one of them is spaghetti. By the end of the movie, she is ready to open her own restaurant with Isaac's help.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Ben walks in on Siri and Alex kissing, while the latter is scantily clad. He goes into Tranquil Fury mode and storms off.
  • It's All About Me: Several of the characters struggle with this throughout the film.
    • Alex is called out on the fact that he didn't consider how his death would destroy the lives of his friends from grief and guilt.
    • Ben constantly stresses about his stalled writing career and how he is a failure at it, to the point of pushing Siri away and ignoring Alex's messages, despite the fact that Alex is clearly suicidal.
    • Josh has to be outright told that his treatment of Sarah in college was abysmal, from using her for sex to completely refusing to be her boyfriend. He has a major Does Not Compute moment when she points this out.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Two examples:
    • Sarah lets Isaac go so that he can have a functional and loving relationship with Kate.
    • Siri and Ben agree to at least temporarily separate so that she can pursue her fellowship without him moving across the country with her, and so he can concentrate on his newly invigorated passion for writing.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Ben is this to Alex, and resents him for it. Alex's main arc is learning to let Ben go.
  • Lonely Together: Implied to be the reason for Alex and Siri's brief tryst.
  • Love Epiphany: Isaac realizes he really does love Kate when Sarah gently rejects his clumsy attempts to seduce her.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Kate is treated as this by rest of the group, due to their age difference and the fact that they are just meeting her for the first time.
  • Never My Fault: This is Sarah's defining character trait.
    • She blames Josh for "messing her up" because he refused to be her boyfriend, even though it was a consensual relationship between two people of equal age, and there was nothing stopping her from ending it.
    • She blames Isaac for not making a move on her in college, even though she told him she only wanted to be friends, which wasn't true.
    • She hates her job but doesn't make any effort to leave until the end of the film.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe, the downstairs bathroom is treated as this by most of the characters, as it's where Alex cut his wrists in the opening, and still has several prominent bloodstains. Part of Alex's Character Development is taking responsibility for his actions and finally cleaning it.
  • Oblivious to Love: Isaac was Sarah's closest friend in college. He claims to have had no inkling that she was carrying a torch for him for all those years.
  • The One That Got Away: An intoxicated Sarah reveals to Isaac that she was in love with him in college.
  • Pregnancy Scare: Siri is several weeks late, and worried how Ben will react and how it will effect her career.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: This is Alex's expression throughout most of the film. It later morphs into When He Smiles.
  • Reality Ensues: It's really not a good idea to drive in the dark on backcountry rounds while blind with rage and slightly high. Ben finds this out the hard way.
  • Shout-Out: Several to The Big Chill:
    • The suicidal character is named Alex, and their methods of suicide are identical.
    • Sarah suggests naming the stray dog they adopt Jeff Goldblum, one of the stars of the original film.
    • During the group dinner, Sarah mentions that the whole thing feels like an '80s movie.
    • Alex's "suicide note" (a tweet), reads "Ask of me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." This is a line from Romeo and Juliet.
  • Starts with a Suicide: Alex dresses, sits in his bathtub, and slits his wrists in the opening scene.
  • Third Wheel: Alex doesn't start out as this, but becomes it once Josh and Sarah hookup. Later averted when Sarah rejects Josh.
  • What an Idiot!: In universe. Ben spends most of the movie berating himself for not seeing the signs that Alex was suicidal.
  • Whole Plot Reference: It's a Setting Update to The Big Chill, only with Alex surviving his suicide attempt at the beginning.

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