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“Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” Reviewed

“Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,” Reviewed (photo)

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There isn’t much of a better way to describe Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell’s “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” than its title, which concisely suggests its size and function and though it’s unmistakably human in its warmth, it’s an indie road movie that runs like clockwork in the tradition of other such films.

The title is also a reference to the profession of Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman), a “freelance technologist” as she bills herself in the ad she posts in the opening frames of the film, a job that requires her to ask people about their connection to technology and have an insatiable curiosity about how things work. And soon after unhinging the backs of iMacs and old radios, giving the latter a come hither “well, hello there,” Sarah is so obsessed with the electronic configuration of a pregnancy test that she barely notices it reads positive, setting her off on a journey across the country to visit her father (Richard Hoag) and find her estranged mother (Mary Beth Peil) to reassure her about parenthood.

It’s a clever way into territory where Sarah may not have been before, but audiences likely have and while it’s not as manic as David O. Russell’s “Flirting with Disaster” or as melancholy as Sam Mendes’ “Away We Go,” Robinson and Howell mostly strike the right notes in exploring what’s passed on between parents and children without ever being too on the nose. This might seem impossible when it’s revealed that Sarah’s mother retreated into the desert or “off the grid,” as Sarah’s sister informs her, far from a world of cell phones and computers, but the writing/directing duo allow the story to breathe and trusts viewers to gradually see in what ways Sarah has her parents’ DNA and which ways she doesn’t.

Much of the film’s charm can be attributed to the film’s lead Hollyman, who is indefatigably upbeat without being annoyingly so, a feat made more impressive considering she’s nearly in every frame. Whether the film was actually built around the actress or not, Robinson and Howell get away a sparser screenplay just by relying on Hollyman’s facility for expressing so much with just her eyes, from delight to confusion, and in exchange, the actress gets the intriguing challenge of playing a woman who embraces isolation so long as she has her gadgets nearby, yet appears to be completely comfortable in the company of others. (That dichotomy brings up the nagging question of why it’s so important for Sarah to reunite with her mother when she seems so self-dependent, but the film engenders enough good will to overlook it.)

Although saying “Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” somehow taps into the zeitgeist with the ways in which we connect to each other wouldn’t be completely off the mark, it is thankfully far too humble to think of itself as some great statement, settling instead for a simple story well told.

“Small, Beautifully Moving Parts” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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