The Meaning’s in the March: Explicit Ills

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Published March 14, 2009

For years, Mark Webber has built his reputation as a quiet staple on the independent film scene: The 28-year-old Philadelphia native has acted in dozens of movies and worked with a number of the industry’s most reputably thoughtful directors (Woody Allen, Todd Solondz, Jim Jarmusch, to name a few). This week, Webber makes his own debut as a writer and director with the release of Explicit Ills, out now at NYC’s Angelika theater. The film, which is loosely based on his own story as an impoverished, sporadically-homeless Philadelphia teenager, paints a bleak landscape of urban poverty through a pastiche of lightly interwoven narratives: Two drugged-out artist-kids in love decide to go clean; a smoothie-addicted, health food-obsessed family looks for a way to open their own shop (in the meantime, they make house visits to sell home-brewed laxative formulas); a low-income mother struggles to care for her asthma-afflicted 7-year-old son. The film culminates as the cast—which includes indie A-listers Paul Dano, Rosario Dawson, and Lou Taylor Pucci—comes together for the first time at a rally, where they march against health care inequality. Webber isn’t exactly subtle in his message here, and the call to “revolt” comes through loud and clear. (Literally: At one point, someone spray-paints it on a wall.) But, then again, maybe that’s the whole point.