Dear Lambent Fuse,
(For a condensed, audio version of this review, visit Voice Mail at Radio DearFilm)
There is no easy way to review a film such as yourself – both as a result of your origins and because of the complex, mysterious nature of your plot. Produced by students and budding professionals, you bear some of the hallmarks of a low budget production, and yet you manage to transcend what some might find to be shortcomings in order to deliver a gripping narrative. Of course that narrative is labyrinthine and greatly dependent on its enigmatic air of uncertainty, so to speak too much about it would risk ruining you for future viewers.
What can be said at the start, though, is that you are an entertaining and engaging film that never once falters in its ambition of vision. The uncertainty or instability one might expect to find in a micro-budget independent film is missing, replaced instead by assurance and certainty.
This is a feat considering that the dense nature of your plot would make it easy for your creators to have grown uneasy or artless in their execution. You focus on six different characters, all of whom are struggling in their own way and hope to take simple actions towards peace without understanding the depth of consequence they may rain upon themselves. Police Lt. Richter (Matthew Feeney) is coming up on the wrong side of a corruption investigation. Freddie and Allison (Rhett Romsaas and Heidi Fellner) are dating when a tragedy pushes them both into their respective zones of release – depression-fueled vengeance and compulsive theft. Paul (Eric Hanson), a chef at a local restaurant, has trouble controlling or properly expressing an obsession of his own, one that drives him to rash and terrible action. All the while Malone and Becker (Nick Hansen and Dan Eckman-Thomas) are trying to get out from debt by executing a string of ever-worsening petty robberies.
There are touches here that make your narrative expand beyond its simply-told outline. Director Matt Cici injects subtle and interesting flourishes in some cuts and transitions that make one sit up and take note. In addition, he and cowriter David Marketon manage to balance the pacing of their story for maximum effect. There is rarely a moment when I felt as though I knew for certain what was going to happen as your story unfolded. Time and again I found myself wondering where a certain thread was headed, what fresh act would draw the story closer to its conclusion. In the best way possible you made me wonder aloud, “what is going on…”
There are flaws, though, and they cannot go unaddressed. At times your budget shows through, leading to stagey-feeling moments that undermine slightly the scenes they encompass. Some of your acting is uneven, though on the whole your troupe ably performs their roles. Some of your sound work is a little wonky, making the discord between voice and mouth hard to shake. Also, oddly, in spite of all of your strong character work early on you leave us with a last moment reveal that feels just slightly too clever for the otherwise grounded story that came before. Still, in the time since I saw you I haven’t stopped turning this reveal over in my head, so perhaps one subsequent viewings my opinion on it will grow more favorable.
Still, these are slight flaws in your otherwise unblemished whole. While some of your acting is uneven, the bulk of it is very good, and each performer gets their moment to shine. My favorite of the bunch, however, is probably Eckman-Thomas as Becker, a twitchy, uncertain young man who is as bad at theft as he is good at video games. Fellner too manages to invest her character with an extra level of depth and pathos, turning what might have been a write-in flaw (her kleptomania) into a real and unfortunate piece of her character.
There is an almost Lynchian quality to you at times. The strands of your narrative at first seem to exist in separate planes of film narrative – the fallen cop, the melodramatic couple, the bungling thieves. As you weave them together, though, things slowly shift into focus and the reality of these characters’ shared existence becomes more clear. The non sequiturs become subtle hints, and the confusion turns to understanding. It’s an impressive and engrossing feat.
It is said that every film acts as a kind of calling card to each artists’ next film. If that is so, I am very interested to see what each of your player and creator’s next step will be.
Holding a candle,
Brian J. Roan