'37: A Final Promise': Film Review

37 Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Cinematic Red

37 Still - H 2014

The tagline, "When Love Means Doing the Unthinkable," signals the material's cheesiness.

Randall Batinkoff plays a rock star planning to commit suicide on his 37th birthday in this drama marking his directorial debut.

True stories don’t always make for convincing drama, as evidenced by 37: A Final Promise, about a suicidal rock star who falls in love with a desperately ill woman. Based on Guy Blews’ memoir How Angels Die, this directorial debut by veteran screen actor Randall Batinkoff (Kick-Ass) wallows in forced melodrama and strained poeticism.

The director also plays the lead role of Adam Webb, the lead singer of a band called Wendigo who seems to have it all: fame, a beautiful casual-sex partner (Kate Nauta) and a palatial oceanfront home in Malibu. Naturally, he’s morose and brooding, the reason for which is signaled by the large number 37 tattooed on his chest. It seems that’s the birthday on which he plans to commit suicide because of his lingering guilt over a tragic childhood incident involving his older brother.

Adam’s malaise is temporarily alleviated when he meets the beautiful Jemma (Scottie Thompson), whose carefree attitude masks a dark secret of her own. She’s dying from ALS, and hastening along the process by refusing to take her meds. Looking on disapprovingly at the new relationship is her older sister, Christina (Tricia Helfer), who takes a dim view of Adam’s bad-boy reputation.

That reputation is unwarranted, as Adam proves to be the perfect boyfriend, tender and solicitous, and rushing Jemma to get a second opinion from his doctor friend (Leon Robinson), which only confirms the initial diagnosis. By now hopelessly in love, he instructs his lawyer (Scott Wolf) to amend his will to leave everything to Jemma and also seeks the advice of a pot-smoking psychic (Bruce Davison).

The director-star, working from a script he co-wrote with Jesse Stratton, tries hard to navigate the alternating atmosphere of giddiness and portentousness. But the stylistic touches, including Adam’s frequent haunting visions of a young boy, only accentuate the melodramatic aspects of the material, which might have been directed by Douglas Sirk in the 1950s. Despite the story’s being based on fact — several liberties were taken, according to the production notes — it never comes across as remotely convincing, with the eventually explained reason for Adam’s choosing his 37th birthday to kill himself proving particularly silly.

Batinkoff, although he ably fulfills the physical requirements of his role, doesn’t manage to bring much inner life to his character. Faring better are Thompson, highly appealing as the doomed love interest, and Davison, who briefly brings the film to life in his few scenes. But ultimately 37: A Final Promise proves as awkward as its ungainly title.

Opens Aug. 8 (Gravitas Ventures)

Production: 37 Productions, Aarimax Films, Turning Point Pictures

Cast: Randall Batinkoff, Scottie Thompson, Tricia Helfer, Kate Nauta, Scott Wolf, Leon Robinson, Bruce Davison

Director: Randall Batinkoff

Screenwriters: Randall Batinkoff, Jesse Stratton

Producers: Randall Batinkoff, Guy Blews, Leila Jewel Djansi

Executive producers: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Barbara Winston, Gordon Winston

Director of photography: Wes Cardino

Editor: Chris W. Hill

Production designer: Jeremy Jonathan White

Costume designer: Dandi Dewey

Composer: Cathleen Flynn

No rating, 92 minutes