Morning: Film Review
Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser, Laura Linney, Elliott Gould, Kyle Chandler, Jason Ritter, Julie White
A couple copes with the aftermath of their young child's death in Leland Orser's debut feature.
Its title a punning play on its subject matter, Morning depicts a couple dealing with the accidental death of their young child. This intense drama co-starring Jeanne Tripplehorn and writer-director Leland Orser is at times too minimalistic for its own good, but it has a powerful emotional immediacy that fully grips the viewer by the time it reaches its wrenching conclusion.
The details of the child’s death by drowning are parceled out only sketchily, as we observe Mark (Orser) and Alice (Tripplehorn) separately wrenched by grief in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Both are mental and physical wrecks. He hangs around the house alone in his underwear, mournfully eating Froot Loops, ignoring the constantly ringing phone, and engaging in such behavior as tearing bouquets of flowers apart with a golf club and rubbing mounds of shaving cream onto the bathroom mirror. She endlessly drives around the neighborhood, engaging in fruitless interactions with a clueless friend (Julie White); violently rebuffing the advances of a lonely businessman (Kyle Chandler) at a hotel bar; and seeking emotional comfort from a grief counselor (Laura Linney) and a kindly doctor (Elliott Gould) who informs her that she’s pregnant. As if in denial over her child’s death, she buys him clothing at a local mall and, desperate for emotional connection, she tells several people with whom she comes into contact, including a sympathetic hotel clerk (Jason Ritter), that they “have beautiful eyes.”
That the story takes place over several days is made clear by the daily appearances of the well-heeled couple’s elderly female housekeeper who dutifully shows up at their house, only to find herself unable to get in.
Writer-director Orser forgoes typical plot mechanics in favor of establishing a deeply mournful mood that draws the viewer in even as it occasionally tries that viewer's patience. But such unusual subtlety and restraint are qualities to be appreciated these days, and the film benefits enormously from the deeply moving performances by the two leads, who display an intensely raw, uncomfortable intensity. The well-known supporting players, although afforded relatively brief screen time, each deliver quietly sensitive turns that add to the overall impact.
Opens: Friday, Sept. 27 (Anchor Bay Films)
Production: Red Rover Films
Cast: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser, Laura Linney, Elliott Gould, Kyle Chandler, Jason Ritter, Julie White
Director-screenwriter: Leland Orser
Producers: Minor Childers, Todd Traina
Executive producers: Charles M. Fries, Jon Fries, Frederick R. Ulrich
Director of photography: Paula Huidobro
Editor: Stan Salfas
Production designer: Bradd Fillman
Costume designer: Mary Claire Hannan
Composer: Michael Brook
Rated R, 95 min.
Sundance: On the Scene