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dir-scr Marshall Lewy
prd Mynette Louie
with Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A Martinez, Danny Masterson, Eli Vargas, Michael Des Barres, Brad Greenquist, Robert Cicchini, Savannah Lathem, Ella Joyce, William Russ
release UK Jun.12 eiff, US 30.Nov.12
Illegal alien: Rasmussen and Carlyle
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
It's not easy to tell a powerfully emotional story without resorting to soppy sentiment, but this thoughtful drama manages to get the balance just right, thanks to sensitive writing and a terrific performance from Carlyle. The result is a relaxed, low-key drama that never takes a predictable path.
Lachlan (Carlyle) is a famed Scottish musician who has lived in rural California for decades following the death of his brother and the break-up of their band. He enjoys his life working on an organic farm and making late-night radio programmes about musicians who flamed out. In his work he meets Beau (Rasmussen) and starts a flirty relationship even though she has a boyfriend (Masterson), a deejay who wants Lachlan to perform on stage again. But what really shakes his tranquility is a drunk-driving charge, which brings to light problems with his immigration status.
As Lachlan's easy, happy life is disrupted, Carlyle brings out the textures of this complex man with subtlety and internalised emotion. We are completely engaged with him as he struggles with the idea of going home again, something he has always dreaded due to feelings of guilt and regret over a past he has refused to confront. So he retreats into alcohol, making things even worse. And it's remarkable that Carlyle keeps the hot-headed Lachlan likeable even when he wallows in his wilful self-pity.
Despite Lachlan's stubborn temper, writer-director Lewy never overstates any of the film's themes, quietly revealing the back-story with all its darker wrinkles, including the ex-wife (Wilhoite) and daughter (Lathem) Lachlan has tried to put behind him for their own good, he thinks. All of the story's elements develop naturally, and perhaps the only false note is Lachlan's idiotic refusal to stop drinking and driving even though he knows the probable ramifications.
The film's intimate tone is augmented by a beautiful score, including a few lovely songs performed by Carlyle. It's shot in a warm, sun-drenched style that captures the light and rhythms of the California countryside. And the plot is allowed to be complicated and sometimes messy, never boiling over into melodrama. Instead, Lewy keeps things earthy and real as the story heads to a conclusion we don't quite expect. A gentle gem.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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