Brief Reunion: Film Review
Friday, January 18 (Striped Entertainment)
Joel de la Fuente, Alexie Gilmore, Scott Shepherd, Quentin Maré, John Ellison Conlee, Francie Swift, Kristy Hasen
John Daschbach's debut centers on secrets and bad blood between old college acquaintances.
Facebook is a villain's best friend in Brief Reunion, a lukewarm buried-secrets thriller that starts with inappropriate friending, progresses to unwelcome photo tagging, and pretty soon finds somebody burying a body in the woods. John Daschbach's debut has a hard time braiding plotlines into a tight noose for its endangered protagonist (and is crippled by an amateurish opening credits sequence unrepresentative of the film's overall craftsmanship); solid performances keep it watchable, but commercial prospects are meager.
Joel de la Fuente stars as Aaron, an entrepreneur living a comfortable life somewhere in wooded New England. (Despite offering some lovely scenery, the movie has no feel for the actual community Aaron and his wife Lea inhabit.) The sudden arrival of onetime friend Teddy (Scott Shepherd) seems at first a mere social dilemma: Teddy, a mooch back in college, is much too eager to insinuate himself into the couple's dinner plans and social media networks. But when Teddy's conversation keeps turning to subjects Aaron doesn't want raised, it becomes clear he has some kind of extortion on his mind.
Shepherd (whose transfixing performance in the eight-hour stage production Gatz makes the idea of Baz Luhrmann's glitzy Great Gatsby sound dull) fills the role of unwanted buddy nicely, seeming almost sincere in his desire for friendship despite his tactics. But Daschbach's script can't quite decide which threat it wants us to worry about -- the exposure of possibly shady business dealings, or that of an old girlfriend Aaron has kept secret from his wife -- and de la Fuente's mostly calm response to Teddy's revelations reflects the filmmaker's indecision.
Things do eventually go bad, with Aaron getting himself into some unambiguous trouble, but the film's failure to raise the temperature gradually leaves viewers less involved than we should be. Absent a noirish percolation, the character's desperate decisions feel hollow.
Production Company: Kagami Films
Cast: Joel de la Fuente, Alexie Gilmore, Scott Shepherd, Quentin Maré, John Ellison Conlee, Francie Swift, Kristy Hasen
Director-Screenwriter: John Daschbach
Producers: Ben Silberfarb, Andrew Lund
Executive producer: Ben Silberfarb
Director of photography: Joe Foley
Production designer: Antoinette Jacobson
Music: Michael Shaieb
Costume designer: Sandra Alexandre
Editors: John Daschbach, Andrew Lund
No rating, 88 minutes