| March 6, 2012

A land of NoNAMES, a small town dwelling which may not even have a name itself, breeds very little but conflict and inner turmoil for Kevin and his friends… his girlfriend, his neighbors and his dog. Its no wonder why Kevin is intent on staying in Fill In the Blank, Wisconsin. NoNAMES is so forcibly bleak, at every corner from start to finish, that it compels us to pray for an end, which up until a certain point we still hope has a light, but after which it really doesn’t matter.
Kevin (James Badge Dale; Shame, The Departed), is living an extended adolescence with his friends and the woman he loves, in the small rural town that his late mother grew up in and later moved her family back to, six hours from the city where his father and his sister live comfortably with the new step-mom. Despite his father’s many efforts to get him to build a life outside that town, Kevin believes he can build a life where he feels he belongs, with his friends.
But the oblivion these citizens live in is interrupted after a tragedy shakes them up. Yet, instead of it shaking Kevin awake, it shakes him into a self-destructive streak that turns one tragedy into several. Kevin also always has the option to leave, to abandon the jobless town with its nightly bar fights and bonfires, so that he and CJ (Community’s Gillian Jacobs) can have a real future.
NoNAMES, a full-length feature debut for writer and director Kathy Lindboe, is full of drama, but its not compelling or even structured. If the film does one thing, it makes a great point against the small town, but somehow it feels like its trying to be more complicated than that. But, we can’t even sympathize with the protagonist even after his world falls apart. And, we grapple with his girlfriend and some of his friends as well. The characters and their choices are so questionable and their time is filled with nothing but drinking and yelling, that you feel the fraternity but are left wondering what kind of love do they have for one another?
And, this town is so small and remote that there are apparently only three options for employment: the cafe, the mill or pulling weeds. This place is not only toxic, its a dead end.
The acting probably factors into the fact that these characters are neither likable or honest. A lot of time is lapsed just watching men huff and puff and down liquor, listening to them grunt and growl. Watching Kevin was like watching every misunderstood bad boy stereotype in the book– Dale got caught somewhere between Kevin Bacon’s Ren MacCormack, minus the charm, and Jeff Conaway’s Kenickie, minus the humor. Meanwhile, Gillian Jacobs, typically a delight on the NBC sitcom Community, offers nothing but pouty melodrama. If anything, we can certainly believe the emotional development of these two characters went stagnant after age sixteen.
When a film is as bleak as NoNAMES, there has to be something to hold onto, but there isn’t. Emotionally we are not moved, just drained, by the characters, by the plot and by the storytelling form.

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