Charles Oliver’s film is a slow-burning thriller, a gutwrenching drama with a fractured narrative, and a long anticipation in search of catharsis. When it finally does come, the results are somehow profoundly underwhelming. Minnie Driver is Ana, a maid, who is struggling to raise her ADHD-afflicted, behaviorally challenged son Jesse (Bobby Coleman). Ana is married to Marty Nichols (David Denman of TV’s “The Office”), a school teacher who is too preoccupied with work to notice his own family and their issues. As the film opens, Ana is being informed that she must put her son in a special-education class because he is proving too difficult to teach for the class he’s currently in. This is intercut with her long drive through the desert – toward what? Meanwhile, we meet Saul (Jeremy Renner), a troubled gambling addict who works for a storage company and auctions off the contents of lockers to customers to support his habit, which his boss discovers and subsequently fires him for. He is an astonishing loser in just about every sense, and owes $2,000 to a low-life criminal, hence the side-business. Then his car breaks down, gets assigned to steal a Range Rover, is beaten up, finds a gun and decides to rob a convenience store. We also see him awaiting execution in a big white room, having conversations with a prison chaplain, and anticipating – what? All these strands are intercut, and gradually it’s revealed that Ana (sans husband) is traveling to have a conversation with the man before he dies. Eventually, we see how Ana’s path was crossed with Saul’s, and the tragedy that ensued. By that point, we find it increasingly hard to care. The film, written and directed by Charles Oliver, is a directorial debut and as such it shows promise, if not exactly tremendous skill. The events are put together out of chronological order, almost like an Inarritu or Tarantino film, so that we might piece together what happened when by the end of it; it might actually be simpler and easier to follow in the end than it actually appears throughout. What pulls us through are the performances by Driver and Renner, who create two convincing and heartwrenching characters brought together by unforeseen and unplanned circumstances with a tragic twist. Also, the cinematography by Tristan Whitman is quite gritty and beautiful at times, dark and stylish. The film reminded me a bit of Marc Forster’s “Stay” (2005) without the trick ending; everything here appears more or less straight-forward despite the narrative somersaults. As a film, this is first-rate for its budgetary constraints. As a screenplay, there are bigger issues at work.


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