SUNDANCE REVIEW: Filmmaker Zack Godshall's Quirky Eye Is 'Lord Bryron's' Strongest Suit

A charming but disjointed ramble centering on a love-able lug and his oddball Louisiana world.

 

PARK CITY – (Sections) This Byron is no Lord. He's more of a peasant, but he's a romantic and inclined to write daily and pursue the ladies. Playing to a decidedly mixed audience reaction here at Sundance, including numerous walk-outs, Lord Byron is likely to lurch about on the festival circuit, especially in the South where this Louisiana-set story unfolds.

Unemployed, overweight and a steadfast loafer, Byron (Paul Batiste) waddles through his day, propelled by weed and his scattered thoughts of becoming a monk. Byron's daily mission, such as it isn't, centers on coordinating his numerous affairs with the local womenfolk. It can get tricky, especially if they happen to work the same hours, which causes Byron consternation and lands him in heaps of misfortune.

An amiable oaf, Byron has a room at his ex-wife's ramshackle home, sharing it with her offspring from other dalliances, as well as whoever her current beau happens to be. It's a strange Bayou brood and screenwriters Zack Godshall and Ross Brupbacher have certainly concocted a spicy Jambalaya mix of odd sorts.

Contextually told -- there's not much of a narrative thrust to the film -- the characters are the film's main delight, starting with Byron, a rotund lummox of a man but whose generous disposition always stirs our interest.
 
After a while the film's array of screwballs lose their novelty, including a survivalist, a fire-and-brimstone TV preacher and a Genghis-Khan obsessed hulk, among other local-yokes. Although idiosyncratic and colorful, they are essentially the same: They are all ranters, whether it's from the Book of Revelations or the gospel of Genghis Khan, their pronouncements soon lose their flavor and become, well, downright annoying.

Filmmaker Zack Godshall's strongest suit seems to be his quirky visual eye for down-home detail. Serving also as cinematographer, his compositions are often hilarious and poignant, especially when framing the hefty Byron as he lumbers through his days in the boondocks Louisiana town.

As Byron, Paul Batiste is, perhaps, the film's most noteworthy contributor. Batiste lets us see Byron's inner emotional churning but does so in an endearing and deceptively laid-back way.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Spotlight
Production: Lord Byron Film
Cast: Paul Batiste, Gwendolyn Spradling, Kayhla Lemaire, Bria Hobgood, Eric Schexnayder, Justin Bickham
Director-cinematographer-editor: Zack Godshall
Screenwriters: Zack Godshall, Ross Brupbacher
Producers: Zack Godshall, Ross Brupbacher
Music: Ross Brupbacher
No rating, 91 minutes

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