Film Review:  The New Year Parade

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
TURIN, Italy -- In "The New Year Parade," the painful breakup of a working-class marriage is set against Philadelphia's traditional Mummers Parade. Tom Quinn's feature debut demonstrates what can be done on a $7,000 budget: not a lot in the looks department, but a great deal of emotional depth through a sensitive, documentary-style approach to blending characters and community into a believable whole. Having major prizes at Slamdance (for best narrative) and the Philadelphia Film Festival (best indie feature) under its belt should give film a push in limited distribution.

The story unfolds over the course of a year in the closely knit Irish and Italian community of South Philly. Mike McMonogul, the captain of one of the city's marching bands, reacts violently after discovering his wife's infidelity. Opening in the tense middle of the McMonoguls' break-up, Quinn closely observes the devastating effects of divorce on the two children, Kat (Jennifer Walsh), who attends Catholic high school, and older brother Jack (Greg Lyons), a musician and part-time bartender.

Without ever being obvious or condescending, Quinn -- who directed, wrote, produced, shot and edited the film -- shows the ripple effects of divorce on a family. Jack and Kat struggle with their own relationships and a fear of intimacy. Like a mirror image of his mother, Jack plots his own form of betrayal by contacting a more successful rival band, much to his father's displeasure and pain. Kat juggles two potential boyfriends while she resists pressure to lose her virginity.

Not all of the action is neatly laid out, and the story remains a little rough around the edges. However, this rawness is more a characteristic of the film than a major flaw. It blends in with the use of handheld camera and extremely naturalistic dialog culled from hours of taping the non-pro cast. The labor pays off in a strong sense of realism.

Further underlining the film's documentary feel is Quinn's use of real marching bands in all their kitschy splendor, particularly the South Philadelphia String Band.

Venue: Turin International Film Festival
Two Street Pictures
Cast: Greg Lyons, Jennifer Walsh, Andrew Conway, Maryann McDonald, Irene Longshore, Tobias Segal, South Philadelphia String Band
Director/screenwriter/editor: Tom Quinn
Producers: Tom Quinn, Steve Beal
Director of photography: Tom Quinn
No rating, 90 minutes