“The work of New York’s Dan Sallitt reaches screens so infrequently (his previous film, The Unspeakable Act, premiered in 2012) that, when it does, it only accentuates what so much American cinema lacks. His latest, Fourteen, a beautifully understated portrait of two lifelong friends (played by Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling) who slowly grow up and apart from one another, approaches female friendship and young adulthood with tenderness and a nuanced understanding of time and its passing. Again looking to the less fashionable ends of French cinema for inspiration (Maurice Pialat, mid-period Éric Rohmer), Sallitt paints an clear-eyed portrait of flawed, recognizable people, devoid of untoward drama but pitched at a level of such honesty as to unsettle with its emotional acuity.”
– Jordan Cronk, Film Comment
Mara and Jo, in their twenties, have been close friends since middle school. Jo, the more outgoing figure, is a social worker who runs through a series of brief but intense relationships. Mara, a less splashy personality than Jo, bounces among teacher aide jobs while trying to land a position in elementary education, and writes fiction in her spare time. She too has a transient romantic life, though she seems to settle down after meeting Adam, a mild-mannered software developer. It soon becomes apparent that Jo, despite her intellectual gifts, is unreliable in her professional life, losing and acquiring jobs at a troubling rate. Substance abuse may be responsible for Jo’s instability… but some observers suspect a deeper problem. Over the course of a decade, the more stable Mara sometimes tries to help, sometimes backs away to preserve herself, but never leaves behind her powerful childhood connection with Jo.