The Frontier

| May 19, 2015

Sean (Max Gail; Mad Men) is a former professor living by himself since his wife died and his son, Tennessee (Coleman Kelly) left home.  Struggling with writing a book, he hires a beautiful young woman named Nina (Anastassia Sendyk) to help him out.  Given than she’s just left her boyfriend and has nowhere else to go, she agrees.  Coincidentally, Tennessee also comes home that very day, and the three characters start on a path of redemption, growth, and other hippie crap.

I’ve been very public about my dislike of movies about writers.  I just don’t think we’re interesting enough to build a movie around, especially if the only conflict for the writer is whether or not he or she can write, or meet a deadline.  It’s boring.  There are exceptions of course: Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation. remains one of my favorite films to this day.  I’d have a difficult time telling you what Sean’s book is about.  Whenever he’s dictating to Nina, I found myself tuning out and not being able to pay attention to anything he had to say.  Parts of it felt like some kind of manifesto criticizing the nation’s education system, parts felt like the philosophical ramblings of a decaying mind.  Sean is a likeable character, and I enjoyed watching him try to keep up with his young co-stars, but the lack of personal crisis is a problem.

The movie generally lacks conflict.  We see Nina leaving her boyfriend but nothing specific or significant comes from that interaction.  Tennessee obviously has problems with his father and the way he behaves, or did behave when he was younger, but I’ve seen that conflict done a thousand times before and in more interesting ways.  Here, what conflict there is gets resolved fairly early in the movie, and you’re forced to think maybe we’re building to something bigger and tragic.  While other dramatic, tragic things unfold, I found myself not invested in the characters enough to care.  As a result, the second half of the movie feels like falling action.

I’d like to be impressed with Coleman Kelly and Anastassia Sendyk given that this is their first movie, but it really does feel like it’s their first movie.  They’re inexperience makes them rather bland on screen.  Of course, it’s hard to say how much of that is the actors’ fault instead of the poor writing and direction, but I feel like more experienced actors would be able to do more with what they were given here, even if the end result was still not good.

No special features on the DVD.  Available now from Virgil Films.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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