We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"Smoke" is a beguiling film about words, secrets and tobacco. It takes place among lonely men and a few women who build a little world in the middle of a big city, a world based on sadness, secrets, killing time and enjoying a good smoke. Like a few other recent, brave movies, it places trust in the power of words: These people talk, weaving pipe dreams into what they need to get by.
The center of the film is the Brooklyn Cigar Co., at the corner of Third Street and Eighth Avenue. For Auggie Wren, who owns it, the store is the center of the world - so much so that every single morning, he stands across the street from it and takes a photograph.
He shows his photo albums to Paul (William Hurt), a writer who is a regular customer: "That's my project. What you'd call my life's work." Paul observes that all the photos are the same. "They're all the same," Auggie says, "but each one is different from all the others." Then Paul sees someone he knows in one of the photos: his wife, who was pregnant when she was shot and killed one morning on the street outside the store. "It's Ellen," he says. "Look at her. Look at my sweet darling." And he begins to cry. Now all the photos do not look the same anymore.
One of the subjects of "Smoke" is the way lives are changed by small details. Auggie sometimes reflects that if Ellen hadn't given him exact change on that sad morning, if any little thing at all had slowed her by a second, she would not have walked into the path of the bullet.