'Generational Sins': Film Review

Generational Sins - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Third Brother Films
Just because it's harder-edged doesn't make it more interesting.

Two brothers deal with their tortured family history in Spencer T. Folmar's faith-based drama.

Spencer T. Folmar’s faith-based drama has gotten some attention because of its foul language and disturbing themes including alcoholism and child abuse. But despite those potentially provocative elements (provocative, at least, for the genre), Generational Sins proves a dull, sluggish effort that doesn’t avoid a single cliche. Notable only for Daniel MacPherson’s strong performance in the central role, the film should please neither those looking for secular nor religious fare.

The story concerns two siblings: the bitter, angry Drew (MacPherson) and his happy-go-lucky, rakish younger brother Will (Dax Spanogle, who also co-wrote the screenplay). The prologue, set twenty years in the past in which we hear shouting and the sounds of violence emanating from a house in the distance, provides a clue about Drew’s resentments. It seems their father was a drunk who abused his family to such a degree that their mother, Sarah (Leesa Folmar), took them with her to live in another state. Will was so young at the time that he has no memory of the traumatic events.

Now Sarah is mortally ill. In a long deathbed conversation, she implores Drew to take his sibling on a road trip to their former hometown and make their peace with their father. Since it’s his mother’s dying wish, Drew finds himself unable to say no.

Arriving at the small Pennsylvania town from which they hail, Will immediately experiences culture shock when he discovers that the local diner doesn’t have “alternative milks” on the menu. Drew experiences a shock of a different kind when he runs into his high-school sweetheart Rachel (Barrett Donner), who happens to be romantically unattached. The old sparks quickly strike between the two, but their ensuing date is ruined when Drew, running to the aid of his brother, gets involved in a barroom brawl that reveals that, in terms of violent rages, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Fortunately, he runs into the local pastor (Tom Folmar) who informs him that his father has quit drinking and found redemption through faith. He advises Drew to do the same.

But Drew further experiences a crisis of faith when he and his brother finally visit their father, only to find him dead from a heart attack outside his house. "Where are you?" Drew angrily yells at the sky, addressing God. "Are you even real?" It’s not a spoiler to reveal that by the end of the film Drew himself has rediscovered his faith and cleaned up his act.

Director Folmar strains mightily to provide visual stylizations to the narratively stilted proceedings. The flashback scenes depicting the father’s violent rages are so gauzily photographed that they bizarrely resemble Hallmark Card commercials. The filmmaker also leans far too heavily on slow-motion, with one scene, depicting Drew angrily breaking everything in sight, going on so long it approaches parody.

MacPherson, who suffuses his portrayal with charisma and emotional complexity, almost manages to elevate the melodramatic material. But ultimately even his best efforts aren’t enough to make this religious-themed drama remotely transcendent.

Production: SpenceTF Productions, Generational Sins, Third Brothers Films
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Cast: Daniel MacPherson, Dax Spanogle, Barrett Donner, Kristen Jezek, Leesa Folmar, Bill Farmer, Nick Coble
Director-editor: Spencer T. Folmar
Screenwriters: Dax Spanogle, Spencer T. Folmar
Producers: Spencer T. Folmar, Thurman Mason
Executive producers: Leesa Folmar, Thomas Folmar, Mark Gottlieb, Sharon Gottlieb, Burton Kloster, Kimberly Kloster, Cathy Mason, Thurman Mason, Amber M. Shimel, Chad Shimel, Luverne Vanderwerf, Sheila Vanderwerf
Director of photography: Ryan Bodie
Composer: Mike J. Newport

90 minutes