Bomber -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

MILL VALLEY, Calif. -- Paul Cotter's semi-autobiographical debut feature, "Bomber," is a poignant, featherweight comedy whose material is too thin to justify its feature length. This gentle road movie, narrow in scope and technically proficient, is loosely based on a trip the filmmaker took with his father, a RAF pilot during World War II, who yearned to return to Germany to atone for bombing a small village there.

Made on the cheap though it doesn't look it, "Bomber" is the kind of slice of life indie film that might have been picked up several years ago. But, in the current climate, it will have a difficult time getting a limited art house release after making the rounds of the festivals.

While Cotter, who wrote and directed, demonstrates a sure hand in piloting a generational conflict that unfolds in close quarters, there's not enough at stake here nor is the story involving enough to sustain interest over its relatively short running time. The fractious family piles into the car for the journey and contrived, emotionally overwrought complications ensue. Needless to say, their plans go awry and the film doesn't fulfill a potentially interesting premise.

Ross (Shane Taylor), a 30-year-old unemployed art school grad with girlfriend problems, opts for a week of aggravation when he agrees to drive his elderly British parents to Germany. Arguments erupt over which route to take, Ross's driving ability and his obsessive attachment to his cell phone.

Soft spoken but wickedly critical, his 83-year-old father, Alistar (a wily Benjamin Whitrow), doesn't express his feelings except to belittle his son and cheerful wife (Eileen Nicholas), who puts on a brave face even as her needs are neglected.

He registers disapproval by needling those around him at every opportunity so his wife is relegated to a peacemaking role, putting out fires her husband starts. Whitrow, an understated, veteran British stage and film actor who can condemn with a raised eyebrow, is a treat to watch.

The real clash is between generations and incompatible communication styles. Ross, a child of the self-help psychotherapeutic age, puts a premium on venting emotion and believes there's nothing that can't be talked out, including his parents' martial problems, while Alistar, a pro at seething and withholding, keeps a stiff upper lip.

Once in Germany, they search for and find the area Alistar bombed. He's genuinely haunted by his actions in the war, but one senses that this also marked a period when he mattered and felt important.

Stephen Coates' lively music and an assortment of upbeat songs on the soundtrack keep things humming along as does Matt Maddox's smooth editing and Rick Siegel's bracing imagery of the European countryside.

Venue: Mill Valley Film Festival

Production company: Boris Makes Bomber, LLC
Cast: Benjamin Whitrow, Shane Taylor, Eileen Nicholas
Director/screenwriter: Paul Cotter
Executive producers: Francis Arnold, Paul Cotter, Jorg Rheinlander, Anja Schlomerkemper
Producers: Paul Cotter, Maureen A. Ryan
Director of photography: Rick Siegel
Production designer: Alex Ward
Music: Stephen Coates
Editor: Matt Maddox
No rating, 85 minutes