It’s difficult to summarize Heaven Strewn. It starts out about a man named Jasper (Rob Tepper) who’s about to have a baby with his girlfriend Anna (Alexandra Williams). Then we meet up with Mickey (Wyatt Denny) at an alcoholics anonymous meeting and before you know it Jasper and Mickey are roaming through the desert looking for meteorite fragments. It gets weirder still when they’re thrown into the middle of a No Country For Old Men homage, running from bad guys with a briefcase full of money. Also, there’s counterfeiting. And so the plot moves on, episodic and disjointed, jumping between entire genres of film and feeling completely unfocused while it does.
The cover brags that Heaven Strewn is a “16mm anamorphic motion picture.” I’m not a film student, but weren’t all films shot on 16mm film at one point? Is it really impressive that the filmmakers decided to use a slightly antiquated method of filming rather than going digital? Perhaps to someone who knows about these things, but to me, it just confuses me why they released this on blu-ray. Some of the shots look really great – the sequence in the desert stands out as a more visually pleasing piece of film, but even that has problems with its cinematography. When Mickey and Jasper see the bad guys roll up in a car in the desert, they hide at the top of a huge mound of dirt, but are clearly visible, and it’s impossible to tell how far they are away from the car until a shot of the car from behind the guys’ shoulders. It’s odd to me that the quotes on the case would call the cinematography “spectacular” and “lovingly shot” when there are mistakes like this within the film.
The acting is very good. Both Denny and Temper have a real talent for establishing a relationship between their characters. It gets pretty intense at times and maintains a definite realism throughout. Unfortunately, the characters feel as inconsistent as the plot they’re thrown into. Maybe this was the point? Obviously, someone thought so, as the film was nominated for best screenplay at the Ashland Independent Film Festival. The cast do the best with what they’re given, and it’s commendable that they’re able to inject some believable emotion into this piece. The fear of being chased by thugs, the greed behind counterfeiting and taking a suitcase of money in the desert, and the hope of a newborn child all come across beautifully in an otherwise mediocre film.
Special features include audio commentary by the cast as well as writer/director Jeremiah Gurzi, a deleted scene, picture gallery, and trailers.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cinema Libra on July 31.