An ethereal love story exploring the journey of two souls connecting across time and space.
Set in the present day, EDWARD (Andy Powers), mid-30s, lives alone in a two-story Victorian house worn down by time. He awaits packages from the local mailman containing rocks with locations such as “Baton Rouge, LA” painted upon it in black letters. He has been receiving these as messages from his former lover, an ethereal and mysterious woman named SPARROW (Lauren Fox) who has been driving cross-country and living out of her van. In the loneliness of his empty house, Edward spends evenings curled up in a fetal position clutching the most recent rock and surrounded by a huge half-circle of about twenty rocks, each with a different town painted on them.
CARL (James Earl Jones), a small-town mailman in his late seventies, teaches the route to his replacement, TOM (Connor Paolo), early-twenties. It’s all about the people. “Mind your business and don’t ask too many questions; mail’s a private thing to most people. And treat ‘em like family.” The final stop on their route is Edward’s old house, and Carl lays out for Tom some of the troubled backstory. He was a shut-in for 33 years, living alone, talking to himself, day in and day out, and then Sparrow literally crashes into his life in the middle of the night, smashing through a fence that he never repaired since. The neighbors found it strange when they married two weeks later, and strange tales circulated about their unusual behavior. Noises from the woods out back, the two of them naked and running wild in the woods. And a year and a half later, Sparrow and her van just vanished. No one knows why. But Carl explains that every week, Edward still gets a package from her.
Despite Carl's advice to just carry out his responsibilities with Edward and not ask too many questions, Tom’s curiosity gets the best of him and he makes an effort to befriend this strange recluse. His home life with his girlfriend and high school sweetheart EMILY has lost its sense of mystery and adventure, and he seeks it vicariously through bringing Edward out of his shell and learning about the great love and loss he’s had with Sparrow, and his hopes that she will one day return. As Emily resists Tom’s nudges to get back into creative pursuits (she’s more concerned about practical matters, like their paying the bills while feeling like his head is in the clouds), his friendship with Edward grows stronger.
During Sparrow's travels, we see her encounter various strangers, ranging from a curious little girl, a guarded hitchhiker (Emily Bergl), a philosophical marine on the beach, and we gradually learn about how her mother took her and fled from an abusive relationship when she was very young, and how soon after her mom succumbed to cancer. Demons haunt her in the form of night terrors, and though we see her allow others into her life freely, she also hides the deepest parts of herself. If she comes back to Edward, will it be in acceptance of who she is or as someone cursed who will drag him down with her?
WHEN I BEGAN WRITING the screenplay for Atlas of the Soul I had little more than an opening image—a man, sitting in a rocking chair on a porch, waiting. I knew what kind of film I wanted to write; a simple love story about not-so-simple people, that wasn’t maudlin or saccharine. Inspired by films like, Days of Heaven, The Piano, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and the old classic, An Affair to Remember, I put pencil to paper (I wrote the entire script by hand) and created a unique love story that just poured out of me from the first page. There he was (Edward) waiting, and finally receiving this mysterious package…
I COLLECT ROCKS. I have been collecting them, forever, from every place I go where they can be found. I have always believed in the energy rocks hold, the history. I decided it was the perfect thing to connect this man and woman, Edward and Sparrow, to each other. It was the glue that kept them together, even when they were worlds apart. I believe in the love story. I think more films should be about love. So many films today are spectacles filled with gratuitous sex, violence, and noise. We need quieter films that show real people connecting to each other in a real way. That is my hope with Atlas of the Soul, that it will become another love story for the ages
WHEN I READ Lauren Fox's script for ATLAS OF THE SOUL, I was struck by how haunting, daring and ultimately moving it is. The characters of Edward and Sparrow remind me of the intensity of the characters from WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but grounded in a realism and grittiness that strips away sentimentality -- and feels sincere. The roles here bring to mind actors who can give the quality of performances in a movie like VANYA ON 42nd STREET, where the rich performances drive forward the scenes and sequences. But not all the characters are human.
EDWARD’S OLD HOUSE should have a personality and age and weight, a sense of history and stagnation. The images of scars and crossroads and how our histories form scars and maps (just as much as landscapes) informs that house. But the story also takes place in visually striking locations along the road. I was reminded of the images of landscapes and water in movies like TREE OF LIFE and BADLANDS. These free-roaming lands inform us about our main character, Sparrow. The poetry of the landscape helps us to feel the poetry within her.
THE FILM IS BEAUTIFUL but not pretty; striking but not stylized. There's a temperance in the storytelling. A kind of quiet that could go either way, that could be an ambush or an anticipation. That’s the mood we hope to create within this terse, lyrical and magical story, a tale of love as a dangerous gift, one that can ultimately heal or destroy. You'll have to watch the movie to find out the outcome, but I was breathless until the final page...