Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2017. Duplass Brothers Productions. Screenplay by Lynn Shelton, Jay Duplass. Cinematography by Nathan M. Miller. Produced by Mel Eslyn, Lacey Leavitt. Music by Andrew Bird. Production Design by John Lavin. Costume Design by Ronald Leamon. Film Editing by Celia Beasley.
The late, great Lynn Shelton goes for a darker and more serious tone than her usually breezy comedies in this deeply touching film. Jay Duplass, who co-wrote the script with Shelton, gets out of prison after twenty years for a crime he didn’t commit and struggles to find his way back to the quiet life of his small town in the Pacific Northwest. He moves in with his brother (Ben Schwartz), who is happy to have him there, but their relationship is disturbed by secrets of the past. Duplass’ bid for finding his footing on the outside, which he hasn’t experienced since he was barely more than a kid, is to insist that he is in love with his former high school teacher (Edie Falco), who worked diligently during his incarceration to get him freed. She is baffled by his devotion to her, herself struggling with a loveless marriage and her estrangement from her teenage daughter (Kaitlyn Dever), and does her best to be a friend to the younger man without crossing any uncomfortable boundaries. The feeling of sorrow that permeates so much of these character’s lives, whether it’s because of their poverty in a place that America’s economy has forgotten or the specific woes that they are enduring, is not a heavy or oppressive atmosphere that weighs the film down; finding humour in the darkest places and exploring a very sexy chemistry between her leads, Shelton instead makes something that is as compelling as it is generous and moving, combining a sense of gritty reality (including an exploration of the injustices handed to ex-convicts) with artistic flights of fancy that threaten to turn twee (Dever’s redecoration art project) but never do.