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Reviews for November 14th, 2014

Beside Still Waters

Directed by Chris Lowell

      After the sudden death of his parents, Daniel (Ryan Eggold) invites his childhood friends for a get-together at their lake house in hopes of rekindling the joyful moments from their glory days. Those friends include his ex-girlfriend Olivia (Britt Lower) and her fiancÚ (Reid Scott), Martin (Will Brill), Abby (Erin Darke), Tom (Beck Bennett), Charley (Jessey Hodges), and James (Brett Dalton). Daniels gets more than he bargained for because there's more to these individuals than meets the eye---they're now adults with complicated lives, after all. As they drink, eat and talk together, they slowly reveal more and more about themselves, and they dynamics and nature of their relationships evolve in turn.

      Beside Still Waters is much like an onion because it has many layers to it which writer/director Chris Lowell and co-write Nohit Narang peel gradually. There's no villain to be found and none of the characters are flawless which makes each one of them all the more interesting and, most importantly, human. These are the kind of characters who aren't cardboard cut-outs; they're, like the film, layered, and the performances reflect that with nuance and naturalism.

      Feelings are complicated and not always expected, but, as Daniel learns via his revelations throughout the get-together, it's important to express them and to at least try to understand them. Lowell wisely trusts your intelligence and patience as a sophisticated audience member, and avoids veering into melodramatic, preachy, cheesy or lowbrow territory. He and his co-writer also do a masterful job of balancing the light and dark elements of the film which never becomes too upbeat or heavy for that matter. It's quite a feat to establish just the right tone, so kudos to the writers for infusing drama with a hint of comedy so deftly without unevenness. The film's warmth, wit and humanism are truly special effects that make it refreshingly un-Hollywood. By the time the credits roll, lessons have been learned, lives have been altered to a certain degree, and a sense of catharsis can be felt. Beside Still Waters is ultimately warm, tender and heartfelt. It's a profound, honest and poignant drama brimming with well-nuanced performances.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Tribeca Film.
Opens at Quad Cinema.

Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2

Directed by Johnny To


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Asia Releasing.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

The Toy Soldiers

Directed by Erik Peter Carlson


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Mance Media.
Opens in select theaters.
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