Spend a week in the life of Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn), an elderly man who has recently relocated to Reno, Nevada to try to figure his life out. Working with a company that helps prison inmates transition back into the real world, Martin’s hobbies include antiquing, museums, and air guitar. Through his job, he meets Travis (Richmond Arquette), who has recently been released from prison and is hoping to get a job and reconnect with his estranged daughter Diana (Sam Buchanan), while also trying to figure out what God’s plan for him is.
Over the course of the film, I couldn’t help but playing the movie Adaptation in my head, which is bad for a couple of reasons. First, because I found it difficult to focus on Martin Bonner’s unassuming little story, and so my mind wondered to a better cinematic experience. Second, my mind chose Adaptation because I couldn’t get the scene where Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) asks Robert McGee (Brian Cox) how to write a movie without conflict or crisis and McGee proceeds to verbally abuse Kaufman’s idiocy over such an idea. Every time I watched Bonner going to the optometrist, or listing a lamp on eBay, or making small talk to his children on the phone, McGee’s monologue would come running through my head. “If you write a movie without conflict or crisis, you’ll bore your audience to tears” “Nothing happens in the world?” “Why the f*** are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie!?” Over and over again.
This isn’t to say the movie is bad. It’s exceedingly ordinary, slow paced, and boring for long patches, but there are definitely redeeming qualities. The performances are excellent. Paul Eenhoorn is great at making this mild-mannered man three-dimensional and complete. Richmond Arquette’s performance is definitely the highlight of the film though. I find his struggle to find faith really fascinating, and I wish that would have been explored more, but unfortunately it just kind of dies away after a while. Sam Buchanan is also really great given she’s only on screen for ten minutes or so. She brings a lot of life to this character who has agreed to come see her father now that he’s out of prison, but the subtext of her struggle with this relationship is demonstrated with a great deal of skill.
The film appeared at numerous film festivals and was a crowd favorite – winning some audience awards – so there’s definitely an audience for it. If you like independent, slice of life, character study films, then you’ll probably enjoy This is Martin Bonner. The film opens in New York City on August 14, and in Los Angeles on August 16.