Outside In (2018)

NR Running Time: 109 mins



  • Two terrific performances from Jay Duplass and Edie Falco make this stifling, slow-burn of a romantic drama well worth the time spent watching it.

  • Lynn Shelton's film is quiet, contemplative, and perfect for those who love an indie drama with those attributes.

  • Offers a unique look at the acclimation of a recently released prisoner with the people he knew, in the places he lived, some 20 years later.


  • Shelton's slow-burn approach to this story is not for everyone, and some may find the film boring and too inert to keep engaged with.

  • Hints at deeper context and meaning, but ultimately settles in as a romantic drama. Some may be disappointed by this discovery.

  • Honestly, it is hard to come up with a reason to not see the film. If the premise does not interest you, the film is likely going to be a miss as well. That's a shame though, as this is a well-acted and well-made movie.


In Lynn Shelton's dampened match drama, Outside In, a small, close-knit community braces for the return of Chris (Jay Duplass). Brought home by his brother. Ted (Ben Schwartz), we learn he is back home after spending 20 years in prison for being an accessory to a murder.

"He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time," we learn, and although Chris never pulled a trigger or was aware his friend had guns with him, back in a situation gone bad at 18, he served his time and was released, in part, through the advocacy of Carol (Edie Falco), a high school teacher he once had.

As Ted brings him home to a "Welcome Home!" party, Chris is appreciative but a bit overwhelmed. As people are happy to see him, he starts to see old and different, yet familiar faces, all smiling and relieved he has returned. Chris, guarded, plays things close to the vest, though the uncomfortable alternative is far better than what he's experienced the previous two decades.

Duplass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Shelton, plays his character in a steady, observing but reactionary manner. The world has passed him by, evidenced by his efforts to apply for jobs on a bicycle, his ability to afford an old antiquated flip phone, and his constant attempts to recontextualize a town he once knew.

As life resumes for those close to him, Chris is left to his own devices. He is drawn to Carol, who he sees as more than just an advocate. Carol senses this and finds herself in a marriage that is functional, serviceable, but passionless. As a result, she begins navigating her own her reactions and Chris' feelings more carefully.

Outside In is the product of a skilled storyteller, in Lynn Shelton, who masterfully controls the mood, atmosphere, and tone in every scene. Nothing is overwrought, the dialogue sharp and thoughtful, and the movie allows each scene to inhale and exhale appropriately. Though at times we may want things to move along more expeditiously, Falco and Duplass command our attention, as they circle one another and Chris continues to reveal more and more of his emotional underpinnings.

While the movie largely focuses on Carol and Chris' friendship, there is a nice supporting turn from Kaitlyn Dever, who portrays Hildy, Carol's 16-year-old daughter. Creative and expressive through art, Hildy and Chris form a friendship, which not only adds a layer of complication to Carol and Chris' connection, but also raises questions about a 38-year-old man hanging out with a 16-year-old girl.

Shot largely in a town called Granite Falls, in Washington state, (a place I know pretty well as it exists about 45 minutes from where I personally reside), the town offers a perfect backdrop to the story being told on screen. Granite Falls is one of those communities where it feels like time just stops for a while each and every day and Shelton and cinematographer Nathan M. Miller make the town almost a character in its own right, and yet one more thing for Chris to sort through.

We can largely see where all of this is headed, surprises are relatively few. This forces some heavy lifting on Falco and Duplass and they are terrific together. Dever's performance is understated and effective, but scenes with Falco's husband, Tom (Charles Leggett), feel forced and sadly a bit contrived.

All in all, this is a drama that goes down smooth, whether in a theater or watching at home. Shelton is a director who trusts her actors and they, in turn, clearly trust her. Outside In is a movie that may dabble with deeper themes and meanings, but ultimately becomes a matter of the heart. And with great performances and believable ambiance carrying the film, Outside In becomes an easy film to recommend.


Starring: Edie Falco, Jay Duplass, Kaitlyn Dever, Ben Schwartz, Charles  Leggett, Matt Malloy.

Director: Lynn Shelton
Written by: Jay Duplass, Lynn Shelton
Release Date: March 30, 2018
The Orchard