A small, snow-covered town in the middle of nowheresville. A protagonist finding themselves living amongst a crowd of people who can turn hostile as quickly as they can turn friendly. A dysfunctional family unit that still has love at it’s core, no matter how hard it can be to see it at times. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Angels Crest is this year’s answer to Winter’s Bone but the similiarities are superficial. While the two movies certainly share a lot, including some magnificent central performances and a tone that is often brooding and full of foreboding, Angels Crest is actually quite a different, yet no less powerful, beast.
Thomas Dekker plays Ethan, a man who finds his life falling apart during the start of the movie. He leaves his son in the back of the truck, in a child seat, and wanders off to look at the wildlife for 10-20 minutes. The doors are locked and the heating is on. But there is still only one person he blames when he returns to find that his son has gone off, alone, into the snow. When a small, cold corpse is found the whole town grieves for the loss of the child, while also casting their own judgment on the situation. The child’s mother, Cindy (played by Lynn Collins), is the quickest to lash out and point a finger despite her own alcohol problems making her unfit to be a mother. Friends rally round to support Ethan, he’s possibly made a terrible mistake but he isn’t a BAD man, and the town is then further upset to find that he will be charged with the death of the child (a case being put forward by Jeremy Piven’s prosecutor, a man with a tragic past of his own that is hinted at but never fully revealed).
Sounds bleak and hard-going? It certainly is. However, Angels Crest also has just as many little moments of comedy (both dark and light) and is as much a look at varying kinds of love as it is a study of the impact of the loss of a child.
The performances aren’t consistent but nobody is ever bad. Dekker seems, at times, too young and fresh-faced for the lead role but this also works to his advantage in scenes where Ethan crumbles and shows the vulnerability always barely hidden below his façade of manhood. Collins does well in a role that would seem fairly easy to get right and Jeremy Piven may not get a hell of a lot of screentime but, damn, it was good to see him once again getting a role worthy of his not inconsiderable talents. Elizabeth McGovern and Kate Walsh get many of the better lines as a loving couple dealing with a number of strains while Mira Sorvino excels in her best role in years, something unshowy but just pitch-perfect for every moment that she’s onscreen. It would also be remiss of me not to mention Joseph Morgan’s quietly effective performance, a friend full of flaws but who also isn’t a bad guy.
Everything onscreen is a perfect balance of sedate pacing, powerful emotion (though not always anything overly manipulative) and sombre tone, with those little laughs allowing some release in between some very fraught character dynamics.
Based on a book by Leslie Schwartz, it may inevitably lose a little something in the translation (as so often happens) but it certainly seems as if screenwriter Catherine Trieschmann and director Gaby Dellal have given it their best shot. Which is a very good effort indeed, with only a few minor mis-steps holding this back from an unmissable experience.
Angels Crest is showing at CAMEO 1 on Sun 19th June and tickets are priced at £9 each. It’s well worth checking out.
DIRECTOR: GABY DELLAL
STARS: THOMAS DEKKER, LYNN COLLINS, ELIZABETH MCGOVERN, JOSEPH MORGAN, JEREMY PIVEN, MIRA SORVINO, KATE WALSH
RUNTIME: 93 MINS APPROX