When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.
"Bereft" is a cathartic take on WASPs dealing with grief, standing to the equal between "Ordinary People" and "In the Bedroom."
Peter Ferland's debut script eschews the former film's talky therapy shortcuts and debut co-directors Tim Daly and J. Clark Mathis allow the story to unfold visually. While not as violent as the latter film, it suspensefully reveals disturbing character and situations gradually, though I would recommend a title change to further the mystery -- and also because those on line at the Tribeca Film Festival will probably not be unique in mispronouncing it, saying BARE-fit instead of the correct be-REFT, even though it dovetailed with the Festival's genesis.
With more than a hint of "One-Hour Photo" in spookily borrowing happy families, the bucolic Vermont mise en scene and eccentric small town humor are increasingly jarring as we with rising alarm watch "Molly" (a very movingly imploding Vinessa Shaw) turn from "the good girl" (as Ferland described her in the post-screening Q & A) photographing pretty corny landscapes to staging edgy Cindy Sherman-esque ghost-catching reality and provoking scary opportunities to express her feelings. "Molly" as an observant, lone walker in contrast to passing and stopping cars was effective both in furthering the plot and as a continually reinforcing visual theme.
Edward Herrmann plays a more avuncular version of his New England patriarch in "Gilmore Girls," while Tim Blake Nelson and Daly add contrasting tension as the, respectively, sweet and sour poor white trash in the neighborhood. Daly's swaggering macho threat is reinforced with his character's unsettling leit motif in the music (uncredited on the imdb and I forget the composer). Ari Graynor terrifically caught the natural aggrieved tone of the living-in-today kid sister and Marsha Mason the clueless, conflict-avoiding mother. The directors explained they had only four days of prep, so that probably explains the lack of coordination in the actors' accents, with no hint of Down East Vermont.
Shot in video, edited on a Mac, according to Mathis, who also served as director of photography, and screened in HD at the Festival, the cinematography and quiet use of special effects beautifully set the changing moods. As the film was financed by Showtime (brought in just under the $1 million budget according to proud co-producer Daly), I presume it will be debuting on cable.
It was nice of the Vermont Film Commission to hand out Ben & Jerry's coupons after the screening!
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