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dir-scr Sara Colangelo
prd Jason Michael Berman, Anne Carey, Thomas B Fore, Summer Shelton
with Boyd Holbrook, Elizabeth Banks, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny, Alexia Rasmussen, Beau Wright, Travis Tope, James DeForest Parker, Randy Springer, Joseph Longo, Annie Fitzpatrick
release UK Apr.14 slf, US 16.Jan.15
Support group: Banks and Holbrook
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Expanding her 2010 short into a feature, filmmaker Colangelo beautifully captures a small-town community in the grip of a series of tragedies that may or may not be accidental. Watching these characters grapple with the ambiguity of the situation is riveting, especially as each must muster the courage to tell the truth. It's a powerful drama that doesn't go easy on us.
When Amos (Holbrook) is injured in a mining accident, everyone in his working-class West Virginia town quietly blames him as the only survivor. Few want him to tell the truth to the investigation. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Owen (Lofland), whose father died in the accident, is bullied at school by JT (Tope) when another accident gives Owen a secret that's not easy to keep. And as manager of the mine, JT's father Bill (Lucas) lives in relative splendour with his wife Diane (Banks), who through a combination of guilt and grief reaches out to Amos.
Colangelo's minimalist script gives the actors space to create the subtle, understated characters. Internalised touches add flickering glimpses of each person's moral quandry. The three central performances are particularly strong: Holbrook is magnetic as a man emotionally and physically crippled by the accident and its aftermath; Banks brings a jangling complexity to a rare dramatic role; and Lofland continues to reveal remarkable honesty on-screen.
These three circle around each other in ways that sometimes feel contrived and scripted, but the situations push then into fascinating corners, drawing out a range of emotions. Shot on location in a real mining town, the thick atmosphere adds energy to the slow pacing. In this tiny community, everyone knows everything about each other, and to sort out their issues they prefer a Bible study over group therapy. But there's also a sense that everyone is hiding. And the increasing tragedy makes it perhaps too clear that only the truth will set them free.
While it may feel a bit thin and elusive, there's a depth to this drama that's hard to shake. All of us know how Amos feels being pressured by everyone around him, and also how difficult it is to tell the truth when we know how much pain it will cause. So even if Colangelo's script feels rather relentlessly miserable, refusing to let any of the characters catch a break, this film's sensitive observational approach marks her as a writer-director to watch.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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