Friday, July 19, 2013

Film on Friday #1 - Arcadia

Welcome to a new feature that will appear sporadically on A Bookworm's World - Film on Friday. Why not Movie on Monday you ask? A good question - aside from the fact that I like alliteration.

Although the words film and movie are interchangeable... "Most major, commercial motion pictures aimed at a broad viewing audience (in the hopes of making a profit) are usually referred to as "movies". The term "film" is commonly applied to movies of an artistic or educational nature not expected to have broad, commercial appeal."

There you have it - I'll be focusing on acclaimed, award winning film from festivals around the world.

And the first entry is Arcadia . This film premiered at Sundance and was a Crystal Bear Winner at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the winner of  Best Children's Film at the Oulu International Film Festival.

This is director Olivia Silver's debut feature film. Silver produced a short film for her thesis based on a memory from her own childhood - pulling into her family driveway after a cross country road trip.

In Arcadia, Tom wakes his three children very early and piles them into the family station wagon, to start their journey from New England to California. Tom has accepted a new job after being jobless for over six months. They seem ill prepared as they head out, with packing still being thrown together in the last few minutes. Twelve year old Greta grabs her stuffed bunny Harrison and her memory box. Nine year old Nat is doted upon and very attached to Greta. Caroline is older and sits up front with Dad, navigating and talking on the phone. What's missing? Mom. But, Tom promises, Mom will be joining them soon.

Right from the beginning, we get a sense that something is 'off'. As the journey progresses, Greta continues to question where their mother is and why they can't reach her. Tom keeps deflecting the questions and tries to jolly the kids along, telling stories, making promises and talking about their new house. But the more he tries to pretend nothing is wrong, the worse things get.

Academy Award nominee John Hawkes's portrayal of  Tom was excellent. Despite his upbeat mood, there is an underlying sense of danger and the feeling that Tom is only barely holding things together. There are several disturbing scenes where he 'loses' it. What is lost is innocence - that of Greta. This trip is a coming of age for her as childhood is left behind and she is forced to confront many truths about her family. Ryan Simpkins was phenomenal and stole the show for me. Nat was played by her brother Ty Simpkins, making the ties between them even more believable.

I'm sure if I looked closely at the cars, I could put a year on the movie. But I didn't - and I couldn't. The station wagon brought back my own memories of family road trips. Scenes shot from inside the car looking out at the scenery captured the 'real' feeling of the film. Sepia tones, washed out landscapes and tired buildings all echoed the run down, worn out sense that surrounds Tom.

Silver cleverly manipulates our emotions and then surprised me at the end with a turn I didn't see coming. An excellent story and an unforgiving look at family - and the ties that bind.

Sound like a film you'd be interested in? Film Movement is presenting a free online screening of Arcadia on July 22nd. Filmmaker Olivia Silver will be on a live Twitter chat during the screening. #arcadiafilm

Monday July 22nd at 8 pm EST at:

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

This sounds excellent!