“Towheads,” which makes its premiere Wednesday at the Museum of Modern Art as part of the annual New Directors/New Films survey (with a second screening Saturday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center), features a unique homegrown ensemble filled out by filmmaker Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines”) paralleling his real-life role as Ms. Plumb’s husband and the boys’ father. The story centers on Penelope (Ms. Plumb), a lapsed actor who has back-burnered her career in favor of homebound motherhood while her theater-director husband focuses on his work. Penelope increasingly falls prey to a kind of mac-and-cheese Stockholm Syndrome from the isolating and unrelenting demands of round-the-clock parenting.
Though new to feature filmmaking, Ms. Plumb has made dozens of Super 8 films with homemade props, minimalist camera blocking and deadpan physical comedy closer to silent-era film comedians and Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot than to the video artists with whom she has shared gallery space.
“Her presence onscreen is arresting,” said Alex Orlovsky, a “Towheads” co-producer who has worked on Mr. Cianfrance’s films as well. “I was aware of that from her video art. She is really gifted in that Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin sort of way. It’s totally anachronistic. No one does that.”