'September Morning': Film Review

Courtesy of Candy Factory Films
More facile than cathartic.
9/8/2017

Five college students deal with their emotions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in Ryan Frost's drama.

Ryan Frost’s debut feature conveys all too effectively the experience of shooting the breeze in a dorm room with a co-ed bunch of college freshmen. Unfortunately, the prospect loses its appeal after a certain age, meaning that September Morning, set on 9/11, will mainly be of interest to viewers young enough to appreciate it. Being released theatrically in conjunction with the 16th anniversary of the tragic events, the film falls somewhat short in the gravitas department.

The five students, including one clad in an ROTC uniform, are depicted hanging out together on the night of the attacks while still emotionally reeling from the day’s events. They discuss the horror of the day in predictably youngish terms--“I had to poop,” one girl confesses to feeling upon hearing the news—and debate about such topics as whether or not they should drink any alcohol that night. When one suggests that it wouldn’t be appropriate, the ROTC student sharply disagrees. “That is exactly what the terrorists want,” he huffs.  

As might be expected with young college students, the rambling conversation quickly leads to more mundane matters. These include what kind of pizza to order, SAT scores, whether or not God exists, and of course, sex, including penis size. Inevitably, four members of the group pair off for make-out sessions, leaving the fifth to brood by himself.

There are also visits by an officious hall monitor (Michael Lui) and a sage pizza deliveryman (Max Gail of TV’s Barney Miller fame), the latter counseling the young people about how to deal with their anxieties and recalling his own fears when he first heard the news about Pearl Harbor as a child.

Director/screenwriter Ryan Frost carefully applies the proper period touches, such as one of the students logging on to AOL Instant Messenger. But the film ultimately becomes bogged down by its meandering dialogue, generic characterizations and such mild attempts at suspense as one of the quintet worrying about a brother in New York City. The material feels very talky and stagy, which is only accentuated by the fact that the film essentially takes place in one room.

The young performers (Katherine C. Hughes, Michael Grant, Taylor Rose, Troy Doherty, Patrick Cage II) go through their paces with sufficient naturalism, and the veteran Gail is quietly touching in his understated turn as the delivery man who proves so empathetic that he refuses to take money for the pizza. Take it from my own experience that it’s one of the film’s less believable aspects.

Distributor: Candy Factory Films
Cast: Patrick Cage II, Katherine C. Hughes, Troy Doherty, Michael Grant, Taylor Rose, Michael Liu, Max Gail
Director/screenwriter: Ryan Frost
Producers: Orestes Arcuni, Ryan Frost, William S. Goldstein, Stephen Gibler
Executive producer: Richard P. Forman
Director of photography: Paul Gleason
Production designer: Liz Toonkel
Editor: Amy Reedy
Costume designer: Kate Fry
Composer: Daniel Wehr
Casting: Andrea Rueda, Charlene Lee

90 min.

 

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