After working on a couple of short films, Jac Cron made her debut feature with Natalie Dyer’s starrer “Chestnut.” Written & directed by Cron, the film follows Annie, a 20-something recent graduate who gets caught up in a relationship with a woman and a man during the break after college. The script explores her confusion in choosing the right path for her future, be it professional or personal. Besides Dyer, the film stars Rachel Keller, Danny Ramirez, and Chella Man in the central roles. Earlier, it was nominated for the Best Local Feature award at the Philadelphia Film Festival.

Spoilers Ahead

Chestnut (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Jac Cron’s “Chestnut” follows recently graduated Annie James, who gets into a complicated relationship with a woman and a man during the summer after college. The film shows her bewilderment as a young adult trying to find the path of her future.

What is Natalie Dyer starrer ‘Chestnut’ about?

“Chestnut” follows Annie James (Natalie Dyer), a recent finance degree graduate who left her home in New York in the hope of settling on the West Coast. She lost her mother at a young age. Since then, her father has been taking care of her. Now that she has graduated, he wants to help her sort out things in her life. Although she has made peace with her life in Philadelphia, he tries to motivate her to the next step. He senses her anxiety about her move to California and tries to cheer her up. After his call, she starts packing the things in her apartment.

At night, Annie goes to a bar by herself. The next day, she meets her friend, Jason (Chella Man). They discuss their plans for the future. Jason hasn’t figured out what he wants to do. He doesn’t feel a strong motive for doing anything. They both feel out of place in their new reality as non-students. Later that night, Annie goes to a bar and notices a couple on her table. She looks at the woman, Tyler (Rachel Keller), who notices her glance. So, Tyler initiates a conversation, seeing Annie drinking alone. She brings Annie to her and Danny’s (Danny Ramirez) place.

Annie & Tyler

Tyler reveals where she and Danny work. Until then, Annie doesn’t know what Tyler & Danny mean to each other. Are they in a relationship or just friends? She isn’t sure. But she starts feeling that Danny doesn’t want her there or is jealous of the attention Tyler is giving her. So, Annie walks out. Danny follows her to make sure she doesn’t feel awkward about his behavior. The next day, Annie texts Tyler to join her for drinks. At night, they meet again. Tyler tells the story of how her parents wanted a boy, which is why they named her ‘Tyler.’ She thought of changing her name but gave up that thought later.

Annie tries to understand Tyler’s intentions behind being with her. Tyler mentions her curiosity in sexual exploration. She says she has kissed a few girls before. Another night, Annie joins Tyler & Danny at a secret club. There, Tyler kisses Annie. Then, Annie joins Tyler, Danny, and their friend, Connor (Caleb Eberhardt), to their place. A few nights later, she joins Danny & Connor to read one of her poems in an open mic. Danny appreciates what Annie wrote. After the set, he asks her about her relationship with Tyler. Then, Tyler shows up there with another friend of hers and doesn’t pay much attention to Annie. It bothers Annie.

The Mixed Signals

Annie keeps hanging out with Tyler, Danny, and their friends. Despite Tyler’s mixed signals, she decides to ask for an extension for her move to California. She likes the new, exciting experience she has with Tyler. So, she postpones her responsibilities for a bit and plans to enjoy it. Through their later meetings, Annie begins to realize their age gap and differing worldviews. She also senses Tyler’s refusal to commit. Although Annie ditches her close friend to be with Tyler, Tyler kisses a man in front of her. Since Tyler ignores her, she starts hanging out with Danny.

Chestnut (2023) Movie Review & Ending Explained
A still from “Chestnut” (2023)

Annie opens up to Danny about her past, her family history, and what writing means to her. She mentions how she and her father often hide what they actually feel. Danny shares a similar relationship with his cold & controlling father, who was in the Air Force. After this conversation, Annie & Danny kiss each other. He wonders whether that was inappropriate. She says it is okay. A few nights later, she joins Danny at a club. Seeing Annie being close to Danny, Tyler brings her to dance along and kisses her. But moments later, Tyler abruptly leaves with Danny.

Chestnut (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

What does Annie decide to do for her future?

After Tyler & Danny leave her on her own, Annie walks up to another bar and speaks with a woman at her table. They talk about their lives & careers and make out in the end. The next day, Annie tries to carry her sofa out of her apartment but struggles at it. Before, she asked Danny for his help with it. But in their current situation, she finds it difficult to ask him. At night, she bumps into Tyler and asks directly what she means to her. Tyler, in an inebriated state, says she loves Annie only as a friend but doesn’t want to marry her. She also says that she and Danny are in a relationship. It upsets Annie.

Later, Annie meets Danny and joins him, Tyler, and their other friends for drinks. But she quickly loses interest and heads back to her house. After a bit of thinking, she decides to head home for a couple of days to spend time with her father. Until then, she was trying to avoid interacting with him and looking for some sort of escape. But she finally makes up her mind and decides to move from her comfortable present to her uncertain future. Before leaving, she meets Tyler, who apologizes to her for how she spoke before. She talks about her past and why she wanted to be on the West Coast. In the end, Annie decides to make a move to her future.

Chestnut (2023) Movie Review:

Jac Cron’s “Chestnut” reminded me of two recent releases, Ira Sachs’ “Passages” and Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World.” Cron’s film also follows a 20-something adult on an awkward coming-of-age journey that involves sexual exploration. However, unlike Franz Rogowski’s contemptible character that always seeks control, Natalie Dyer’s Annie is merely going through the phases of early adulthood where a commitment to anything feels like a life-and-death situation.

Be it her career or love, Annie struggles to make peace with the choice she made. Yet, as a freshly graduated person, she feels a sense of freedom from the lack of immediate responsibilities. There’s no significant burden in her life beyond her sense of personal fulfillment. However, there’s also a fear of the consequences of being reckless, as was possible during her years of education. You sense that mix of joy and frustration in her demeanor and her conversations with Jason.

The script mainly follows Annie’s confusion about her bond with Tyler & Danny based on their mixed signals. As a premise, it seems promising enough. However, the script doesn’t develop it much beyond the usual romance tropes of will-they or won’t-they. There’s no sense of distinct personality to the film or an interest in exploring themes beyond the surface-level attraction. It pales significantly to the aforementioned examples that deal with similar premises with much more depth, understanding, and conviction.

“Chestnut” feels earnest, charming, and personal and may resonate with viewers for the same reasons. But it also feels like a wasted potential with meandering conversations, especially when the film has actors capable of exploring profound themes. It becomes a middling attempt at exploring the feeling of being at odds with oneself.

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Chestnut (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
Chestnut (2023) Movie Cast: Natalia Dyer, Rachel Keller, Danny Ramirez, Chella Man, Caleb Eberhardt, Haniq Best, Eric Francis Melaragni, Nathaniel Wood, Lindsay Michelle Reed
Chestnut (2023) Movie Released on Jun 21, Runtime: 1h 27m, Genre: Drama/LGBTQ+
Where to watch Chestnut

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