Oliver Sherman
dir-scr Ryan Redford
prd Eric Jordan, Paul Stephens
with Garret Dillahunt, Donal Logue, Molly Parker, Kaelan Meunier, Marla J Hayes, Fiona Highet, Duane Murray
release Can 4.Feb.11, UK Jun.11 eiff
10/Canada 1h22
Oliver Sherman
A sharp edge. Meunier and Dillahunt

dillahunt parker logue
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Oliver Sherman With quiet intensity, this contained drama feels like a stage play with its intimate approach and limited cast and settings. It also has a strong thematic kick that's both emotional and political, without ever being preachy.

Franklin and Irene (Logue and Parker) live in a small Canadian town with their two young children. And Franklin is startled when Sherman (Dillahunt) turns up at the door. They last saw each other while serving in the military seven years earlier, when Franklin saved Sherman's life. But while Irene welcomes the drifter into her home, his erratic behaviour starts to worry her. So do the changes she sees in Franklin, who starts to slip back into his old beer-drinking ways. And as days drag into weeks, something's got to give.

On the surface, nothing much happens in this film, as the characters spend more time looking at each other than talking. Most conversations are low-key, echoing the sleepy local setting, but under the surface there's a lot going on. filmmaker Redford makes sure we don't miss this through suggestive camerawork, moody music and sharp editing. Sometimes this borders on pushiness, as he drops in red herrings or lets us fill in the blanks.

But the real story is in the actors' eyes, which vividly convey the collision of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Even though Sherman is cast as the menacing intruder, Dillahunt plays him as a troubled man desperate to belong somewhere again. So even his more extreme actions are sympathetic. Parker is essentially the protector, caught between maternal instincts and love for her husband. While Logue's complex performance reveals how Franklin's sense of responsibility and concern for Sherman begins to clash with his husband/father role.

The title refers to a confusing bit of Sherman's back story: that he grew up with his first and last names reversed and only discovered the truth as an adult, making him feel somehow out of balance. Not only does this seem a bit unlikely, but it also demonstrates the script's heavy-handed touches, which wouldn't seem so contrived on stage (or perhaps in Rachel Ingall's source short story). Even so, the film leaves us thinking about this conflict between basic roles as humans, and how finding a solution usually means that someone gets hurt.

cert 15 themes, language 14.Jun.11 eiff

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall