This is one of the most amazing and intense movies I’ve seen in years. It is tense and unbearably suspenseful movie from the opening moments until the bitter end. This little scene indie film is one people should seek out.
The story concerns David, played by Clayne Crawford, a man who is struggling to keep his family together. He and his wife have separated in order to try to work out their issues. He is living in his fathers house a few blocks away. He is seething and burning with frustration and rage as he watches his life fall apart in his hands.
I knew nothing about the film when I started watching it. I think that’s the best way to view it, so I’ll try to discuss it obliquely here and then give away the goods later on.
The movie is incredible intense. Every scene is built around characters not saying what they need to say. They are held back by pain, frustration, and years of hurt. They don’t want to explode and damage the relationship further. It’s this fear of hurting each other that runs throughout the film and lends it so much narrative tension. I was on the edge of my seat during every scene hanging on ever word wondering if they were finally going to say what they needed to say.
The tension also comes from David’s increasing rage. He demonstrates a capacity for violence as he leaves a bad encounter with his wife and punches a body opponent bag with vicious zeal. He could explode at any moment and harm those around him. This capacity for violence might alienate people to him as a protagonist, but I think it works. If you really embrace the situation he is in, you’ll be as frustrated as he is. I was.
The tension is amplified by the way the movie is shot. It has a narrow aspect ratio that is closer to a square. It’s called academy ratio and it shortens the sides of the frame to create a visually claustrophobic movie. You are trapped in the frame alongside the characters.
Often filmmakers rely not he edit to create tension and momentum, but the director Robert Machoian, uses extremely long takes. He never gives us the relief of an edit. He holds wide shots for the entire duration of a scene and allows the characters to move within the frame. He never cuts in for a close up or cuts away to emphasize an action. The edit would break out attention and give us some sense of relief. The way the movie plays out is in a constant unbroken moment of building and simmering tension. It allows the actors to act and feel out a scene more naturally. It’s incredible.
This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. It is currently streaming on Hulu. Seek this movie out. It is absolutely worth your time. It is riveting and powerful beginning to end. It is my cup of tea. A+
Okay, let’s get to some spoiler territory.
The movie opens with David holding a gun to his sleeping wife’s head. Holy crap, that’s a very dark and dangerous place to start a movie. It makes sense that some people would be put off by a protagonist who would even consider going this far. It almost put me off too, but I stuck with it Because after seeing everything that David is going through I understood why he was that desperate. It’s not okay or acceptable, but it is understandable that he would be that broken and lost. It also sets the tone of the suspense in the rest of the movie. If we see how far he might go it makes everything that follows that much more scary. Also seeing how good he is with his kids and his elderly father really makes me root for him. I want to see him throw his gun away and get out of the darkness that made him think he needed to go this far. All I’ll say is that if the opening turns you off, stick with it.
Jumping off of that, I hate the character Derek so much. He is David’s wife’s new boyfriend. He sucks. I hate him so much. He is a smarmy, sleezy jerk. I hate him. Movies are so often filled with milquetoast characters designed to maximize “likability.” This movie offers us a deeply flawed protagonist and one of the worst people I’ve ever seen in Derek.
The movie has a somewhat murky ending. This might disappoint some viewers, but I found challenging and resonant. Sometimes it feels like the filmmakers forgot to write an ending, and just stopped the film. This movie gives us everything we need except a guarantee. There’s no guarantee that the resolution to the movie is going to last. We simply get to a certain point and leave the characters to continue living their lives. We have no promise that the problems are entirely resolved or will ever be resolved. It allows us as the audience to think through the story and its implications instead of spoon feeding us a cookie cutter conclusion.