Duck Beach to Eternity: Film Review
Seattle International Film Festival, Documentary Competition
Hadleigh Arnst, Stephen Frandsen, Laura Naylor
The documentary focuses on Mormon singles looking for love in a North Carolina getaway.
SEATTLE — What would Spring Break be like with no booze, no sex, and few if any people of color? A lot like Duck Beach to Eternity, which takes viewers to a North Carolina getaway frequented by Mormon singles looking for their eternal partners. Intriguing if familiar in format, it would play well on small screens during an election year sure to stoke curiosity about the religion.
After a cheesy but brief animated sequence spelling out Mormon beliefs about coupling, the filmmakers spend about half an hour introducing us to four main subjects -- one man and woman who fit Barbie/Ken preconceptions about the sect, and another who are significantly more interesting.
Most engaging is Brian, a seriously nerdy Latin teacher from Brooklyn whose awkwardness around strangers grows more heartbreaking during the film; but all four are likeable, three-dimensional people, with the arguable exception of Ryan -- a 34 year-old real-estate worker who, hilariously, found it much easier to date a woman seriously when he lived in New York than he does in Salt Lake City, where an "endless buffet" of eligible ladies awaits.
The film does a fine job of communicating the values of a subculture in which a single 23 year-old woman might feel she's waited too long for marriage and those in their thirties (known as "mid-singles"), having failed to pair up "well beyond the time you're supposed to be married," are viewed as damaged goods.
Once everyone has made it to the beach, there's less evidence of guilt-ridden bad behavior than viewers may expect (especially after having heard the scene described as "Mormon Jersey Shore"). Instead, we see young adults chugging Mountain Dew as if it were Bud Light (even smashing cans on foreheads) and playing silly party games. The main event is a day-long cruise down a strip of sand, with bikini-clad women bending the rules of modesty in hopes of being invited to one of the big evening parties.
The three co-directors are happy to take interviewees at their word, never pushing when they vaguely tell of past relationships that "didn't work out" or testing assertions outsiders might find hard to believe. One claim that falls apart all on its own is the oft-heard refrain, "if it happens, it happens" -- these men and women may claim they're not traveling cross-country fully determined to marry someone asap, but everything on screen says otherwise.
Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, Documentary Competition
Production Company: Big Iron Productions
Director: Hadleigh Arnst, Stephen Frandsen, Laura Naylor
Screenwriter: Stephen Frandsen
Producers: Stephen Frandsen, Hadleigh Arnst, Laura Naylor
Music: Michael Freeman
Editor: Victoria Lesiw
No rating, 80 minutes.
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