MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Jon Russel Cring, Heidi Philipsen
Starring: Gus Birney, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, David Thornton
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
What It Is: Fifteen-year-old Darcy is tired of the rut that is her summer of work at her parents’ small, failing motel in a small town. When a prisoner is brought to the motel on behalf of her parents’ deal with the Department of Corrections, Darcy becomes enamored by the man’s charm and kindness. What continues is their growing relationship as the prisoner, named Luke, works towards winning her over while appearing to resist any advances she puts forward.
What We Think: I thought the concept, for what it is, was actually well-handled. For a Lolita-esque story about an older man and an idealistic teenage girl, the power dynamics and details behind Darcy’s youthful exasperation and Luke’s two-faced, sociopathic game felt very accurate to me. The process of the grooming was extremely painful to watch but certainly the centerpiece of the film as it marks a devastating turning point in Darcy’s life as well as is represented with the most candor. I can already hear how some would downgrade this film for its representation of a hebephilic relationship, and while certain scenes or shots can lean more towards the strange, silly, and exploitative, I still feel like the overall delivery of this particular storyline ended up being more interesting and even informative, going from a cheesy Danielle-Steel-rom-dram in the eyes of Darcy, to an ultimately cold, harsh reality that falls upon her, seemingly all at once.
Speaking on the rest of what the movie had to offer, it honestly came up short in all other avenues. While the acting itself was solid–there were some really good performances to be seen here–technicalities get in the way. For one, the camera is a tad under-quality, which is fine in that you can still deliver some great stories and images through whatever medium is used, but on top of whatever they used to shoot, there was some pretty bad cinematography on top of it. The quality is inconsistent, the shots can be quite ugly as we are overwhelmed with nonsensical dutch-angles, the camera-movement can interrupt the suspension of belief due to its intended shakiness, the ADR is obvious, there are a few sound design misfires, some of the editing is noticeably bad (see: reused and grainy shots), and the color grading frankly looks like an iMovie filter. These properties took so much away from a story with so much potential, but the story itself still had some polishing to do as many scenes were quite dull and felt unnecessary, I found myself wanting to skip ahead, and had I done so, I doubt I would have missed much.
Our Grade: D+, I’m not whacking it altogether. Honestly, I feel that if the camerawork and post-production were on a more professional caliber, it would be at least a C-. There’s work to do here to fix the inconsistency between the shots, varying quality of images, tone, et cetera… There’s definitely an important and interesting point to this movie here, but as a whole, it feels like it’s still in utero and needed some more time to collect more resources before being produced, perhaps. Until then, I can’t really recommend this is going to be anything but a place to observe some of the creepiest and manipulative mechanics of grooming.