Posted by Ron Ashley on April 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm
I recently caught ANGELS CREST, directed by Gaby Dellal, at Tribeca. This heavy drama tells the sad story of a young boy freezing to death in the forest near a small town in the Rocky Mountains after his father irresponsibly (but not maliciously) leaves him in the back seat of their minivan while tracking a deer through the forest for a few minutes. When the father returns to the car, the boy is missing, and after a thorough search with the help of local police and townspeople, they find the boy’s frozen carcass, devastating the town and especially the boy’s parents (young, irresponsible, but good-hearted father and alcoholic mother). The bulk of the film deals with the town (friends, family, police, District Attorney, etc.) determining the father’s culpability for his son’s death, while the father himself comes to terms with his guilt and the choices he has made. The film features an impressive cast which includes notables Jeremy Piven, Mira Sorvino, and Kate Walsh (GREY’S ANATOMY, PRIVATE PRACTICE) in peripheral roles.
Lynn Collins and Thomas Dekker, who play the little boy’s devastated parents, both gave outstanding performances. Dekker does an excellent job of carrying most of the film’s emotional weight as the leading man, and I’d be very, very surprised if this is the last we see of him. He is a strong contender for future dramatic roles, and I’d love to see him as a romantic lead next… a less melodramatic project would suit him quite well and open up opportunities for his future as a potential star. Collins, while delivering a strong performance in this film, strikes me as a less versatile actor than Dekker, due to her harsh, badass vibe. Bottom line… the acting was very strong in this film.
However, what the film has in its performances and the beautiful natural landscape of the Rocky Mountains, it lacks in ability to engage an audience. Essentially, ANGELS CREST is 93 consecutive minutes of crying. Every somewhat important character cries at least once during the film, and for many of the characters, they spend a significant amount of their total on-screen time crying. I appreciate that the story is meant to be extremely tragic, but crying should be the cherry atop a well-developed tragic ice cream sundae, not a go-to device to force additional sadness into various scenes. If everyone is crying constantly, it reduces the dramatic weight of the moment and takes away from the focus of the scene instead of adding to it. Kinda like overusing a highlighter while taking notes during a class. If you highlight sparingly, your notes will be well-organized, and you’ll have an easy time finding key information. But if you highlight way too much, it defeats the purpose, since all the key information and not-so-key information begin to blend into each other.
To wrap up, the acting was excellent, the landscape was gorgeous, and the technical aspects of the film (cinematography, sound, etc.) were all on point. But the story was too basic for a feature length film (probably could’ve been a great short film), and there was WAY too much crying for my taste.