The micro-budgeted breakout hit of Slamdance, Mark Jackson's terrific, atmospheric psychosexual thriller thrusts Josyln (the amazing Joslyn Jensen) onto a remote, wooded Pacific Northwest island, where the recent high-school grad has taken a job with a highly anal family as the primary caregiver to Frank (Ron Carrier), an elderly invalid in a vegetative state. Left alone with her charge--and the denial of her deeply buried guilt; she's running away from something (or someone)--the isolated Joslyn begins to unravel, and the awkward relationship between the two characters takes a dark turn as she comes to believe Frank isn't as incapacitated as he appears.
Joslyn's iPhone can be rightly called Without's third major character, and Jackson seamlessly integrates contemporary technology, and its absence, into the slow-burning film's fabric. Joslyn's removal from the world is compounded by the lack of internet and cell-phone reception--the only place she can get a signal is the place she most wants to avoid: Frank's room. With its constant frissons and claustrophobic cinematography, the film that Without most often brings to mind may be Polanski's Repulsion, but rather than assuming the mantle of Catherine Deneuve, with an erotic and adventurous performance Jensen immediately establishes herself as the American second coming of Isabelle Huppert.