Outside In

Apr 3, 2018

Simply told with memorable acting.

Outside In

Grade: B+

Director: Lynn Shelton (Laggles)

Screenplay: Shelton, Jay Duplass

Cast: Edie Falco, Duplass

Runtime: 1 hr 49 min

by John DeSando

Although Lynn Shelton’s slice of small town Pacific Northwest life (pay attention Everett and Granite Falls) in Outside In is so authentic as to defy artful interpretations, it is a minimalist portrait of ambitions circumscribed and affections compromised. In other words, it elevates working class melodrama into art house heavy while retaining the hint of desperate housewives of any small town.

Almost 40-year old Chris (Jay Duplass) has been released from prison after 20 years with the aid of his do-gooder former teacher, Carol (Edie Falco). Arriving in Granite Falls, Washington State, he is faced with hitherto unsuspected expectations from the two leading ladies: Carol and her daughter Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever). A brief brush with another lady reminds us that a handsome bachelor, recently released from prison for being innocent, is fair game for romantically inclined small-town women.

Shelton’s approach is to let the realism dominate without veering too sharply into contrived, ironic situations. Chris’s adjustment into civilian life will be fraught with suspicion and jealousy, just as in the real world his siblings and friends have always lived. 

Falco and Duplass are so believably good as two adults who need to start life over that you miss the clichés and unsurprising turns because the leads become family whose fates matter very much to us.

Outside In is not kitchen-sink drama; it is simply simple life warm, troubled, and endearing.  And that acting . . . .

“There are aspects of small town life that I really like - the routine nature of it, the idea of people knowing you and your likes and dislikes.” Cress Williams

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at