Echo Park is Sophia’s (Mamie Gummer) story. We find her at a point in her life when she questions everything, she shakes up everything, and she turns a 180 on the way she’s been living.
There are spoilers ahead.
Ostensibly a love story, Echo Park isn’t really a love story. It’s missing the happy ending and most of the other romantic trappings of a love story. But it does involve a romance.
Sophia’s a rich Beverly Hills woman who is expected to marry Simon (Gale Harold) and be just like everyone she knows. Especially her mother (Helen Slater).
What she does instead is move all the way across LA to Echo Park, where she rents an empty house. She buys a couch from Alex (Anthony Okungbowa) who lives nearby. Alex is moving back to London at the end of the summer because he can’t find work in LA. The two of them hit it off, play soccer with Alex’s friend Mateo (Maurice Compte) and his son Elias (Ricky Rico), drink a bottle of tequila, and end up in bed.
They agree from the start that there is a term limit on the relationship, because Alex is leaving LA.
Alex and Sophia spend most of the summer together. They have long talks, they share a bed, they share friendship with Mateo and Elias. Sophia especially encourages Elias to develop his budding skills as a photographer.
Because Sophie doesn’t really know what she’s doing, the audience doesn’t always know either. She has trouble identifying her own feelings. She’s rebelling somehow, but how? Against what? She spends a lot of time thinking. It’s a slow moving, quiet film.
Alex falls for her; he would stay if she asked. She won’t commit to him – he was a summer romance. She almost goes back to Simon and then rejects him, too.
Alex is a much nicer guy than Simon, by the way. But she will have neither.
When it comes right down to it, she’ll just be Sophie, on her own.
There’s more to the story than the romantic outline. There are class and race issues involved. For example, Alex thought he had his house sold, and the buyer backed out. So Sophie offered to buy it. When Alex asked her if the mortgage people would approve her credit, she answered, “Of course. Why not?” as if it never entered her mind that there are people in the world who struggle to qualify for a mortgage loan.
In spite of their differences, I was hoping for a happy ending for Sophie and Alex. But the film wasn’t about that, no matter how much time it devoted to their relationship. The film was about this particular summer in Sophie’s life and what the rest of her life is going to be because of it. The happy ending, if one is necessary, is Sophie finding her way.
Echo Park was directed by Amanda Marsalis and written by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta.
You can watch the trailer and a couple of clips from the film in this earlier post.