A Wild Ride From ‘Dilettante’ to Director

Theda Hammel is under no delusion that Covid is box-office gold.

“I don’t think it’s going to draw people in, the idea of dwelling on that time,” she said last week at the Soho Grand Hotel in Manhattan, sipping an herbal tea on a leather couch. “But I think it has value as a little bit of a time capsule.”

Later this month, her debut film, “Stress Positions,” an ensemble comedy that showed at Sundance, will ask audiences to return to the early days of the pandemic, a time that many people would rather forget.

And what about the no-straight-people-in-her-entire-movie thing? Was that some sort of canny strategy?

No, just a function of circumstance.

“I don’t know any straight people,” Ms. Hammel, 36, said. “I don’t know any.”

The film is largely set within the confines of a Brooklyn brownstone, where an anxious 30-something, played by the comedian John Early, tries to keep his potentially virus-carrying friends at bay as they clamor to meet his 19-year-old nephew, an injured Moroccan model he started caring for just as the world shut down.

Masks dangle from chins, but the word “Covid” is uttered only once. That’s because Ms. Hammel is less interested in life during the pandemic than the way a certain set of bourgeois millennials responded to it. The preoccupation of her movie is privilege: the way it coddles, insulates, divides.

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