dir Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, Daniel Powell
scr Daniel Powell, Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, Rebecca Drysdale
prd Alex Bach, Daniel Powell, Elizabeth Rohrbaugh
with Lena Hall, Christine Lahti, Mena Suvari, Dan Fogler, Michael Zegen, Hayley Kiyoko, Darren Ritchie, Rebecca Drysdale, Natalie Gold, Sas Goldberg, Morgan Weed, Sarah Wilson
release UK Oct.17 rff, US 9.Feb.18
17/US 1h34
Take me to church: Lahti and Hall

suvari fogler zegen
raindance film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Becks Skilfully shot and acted, this warm drama is grounded in an earthy sense of authenticity as it follows a young woman trying to rebuild what's left of her dreams. Even though the plot gives in to structural demands, filmmakers Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell tell the story in an engaging way, quietly bringing out important themes without pushing them.

After a nasty breakup with her girlfriend (Kiyoko), musician Becks (Hall) has little choice but to abandon her New York life and return home to live with her church-lady mother Ann (Lahti) in suburban St Louis. To keep herself busy, she starts teaching guitar lessons and playing for tips in a bar owned by high school friend Dave (Fogler). Her music quickly develops a local following, including Elyse (Suvari), who becomes a friend and student, even though she married the guy (Ritchie) who tormented Becks in high school.

Becks' journey has a gently loping pace that allows the audience to discover the character organically. She's a deeply likeable young woman who takes what life throws at her with wry humour and an open heart. And her songs(written by Alyssa Robbins and Steve Salett) are gorgeous, full of soulful yearning and engaging romantic currents. That said, the plot kind of loses steam along the way, spinning in circles before heading into a more heightened dramatic final act that pushes the characters in some inconsistent directions.

At the centre, Hall is relaxed and natural to the point that we feel like we're watching the actress' own story. Her chemistry with each character sparks with life and humour, even when the script wobbles. Lahti and Fogler are superb in their scenes opposite her, while Suvari gets some particularly strong moments of her own in a role that has some surprising wrinkles. There's also a nice late appearance by Zegen as Becks' brother, plus a sparky sequence featuring cowriter Drysdale.

It's great to watch a story unfold with so much confidence, even if it ultimately resorts to dramatic formula. Rooted in the characters, the film smartly maintains an edge of unpredictability in the meandering but involving narrative. As the film continues, it gets so intimate and thoughtful that there doesn't really seem anywhere for it to go, so the writers push things into a conclusion that's contrived and overwrought. It's still engaging, but it's a shame that we can hear the plot's gears grinding.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 7.Feb.18

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall