Brief Reunion: Film Review

Brief Reunion Still - H 2013

Brief Reunion Still - H 2013

Solid performances buoy a contrived suspense tale.

John Daschbach's debut centers on secrets and bad blood between old college acquaintances.

Facebook is a villain's best friend in Brief Reunion, a lukewarm buried-secrets thriller that starts with inappropriate friending, progresses to unwelcome photo tagging, and pretty soon finds somebody burying a body in the woods. John Daschbach's debut has a hard time braiding plotlines into a tight noose for its endangered protagonist (and is crippled by an amateurish opening credits sequence unrepresentative of the film's overall craftsmanship); solid performances keep it watchable, but commercial prospects are meager.

Joel de la Fuente stars as Aaron, an entrepreneur living a comfortable life somewhere in wooded New England. (Despite offering some lovely scenery, the movie has no feel for the actual community Aaron and his wife Lea inhabit.) The sudden arrival of onetime friend Teddy (Scott Shepherd) seems at first a mere social dilemma: Teddy, a mooch back in college, is much too eager to insinuate himself into the couple's dinner plans and social media networks. But when Teddy's conversation keeps turning to subjects Aaron doesn't want raised, it becomes clear he has some kind of extortion on his mind.

Shepherd (whose transfixing performance in the eight-hour stage production Gatz makes the idea of Baz Luhrmann's glitzy Great Gatsby sound dull) fills the role of unwanted buddy nicely, seeming almost sincere in his desire for friendship despite his tactics. But Daschbach's script can't quite decide which threat it wants us to worry about -- the exposure of possibly shady business dealings, or that of an old girlfriend Aaron has kept secret from his wife -- and de la Fuente's mostly calm response to Teddy's revelations reflects the filmmaker's indecision.

Things do eventually go bad, with Aaron getting himself into some unambiguous trouble, but the film's failure to raise the temperature gradually leaves viewers less involved than we should be. Absent a noirish percolation, the character's desperate decisions feel hollow.

Production Company: Kagami Films

Cast: Joel de la Fuente, Alexie Gilmore, Scott Shepherd, Quentin Maré, John Ellison Conlee, Francie Swift, Kristy Hasen

Director-Screenwriter: John Daschbach

Producers: Ben Silberfarb, Andrew Lund

Executive producer: Ben Silberfarb

Director of photography: Joe Foley

Production designer: Antoinette Jacobson

Music: Michael Shaieb

Costume designer: Sandra Alexandre

Editors: John Daschbach, Andrew Lund

No rating, 88 minutes