Greetings again from the darkness. The film opens with a man pointing a gun at a sleeping couple. We hold our breath in anticipation until the tense moment abruptly passes. At its most extreme moments, life can push people to their emotional and physical limits, and that’s what we see with David, played exceptionally well by Clayne Crawford (TV series: “Lethal Weapon”, “Rectify”).

The foreboding of that opening scene cloaks the entire film with an inevitability that we never shake. David is living with his ailing father (Bruce Graham) right down the street from Niki (Sepideh Moafi, “The Deuce”), his high school sweetheart, and the mother of his teenage daughter and three younger sons. David and Niki are in the midst of a trial separation, in which they’ve agreed to see other people while also trying to work things out. They even try “date night”, which is where it becomes painfully clear to us that Niki not only has a new boyfriend (Chris Coy), but she’s doing well at her job, and is looking to the future. It’s likely she agreed to the separation to make the transition easier on David, whose pride will not allow him to accept the break-up of his family.

David’s a loving father, but he lacks the emotional maturity to handle the situation. The strain of it all has him simmering with rage – even as he hustles for manual labor jobs and tends to his dad. His dream of being a singer-songwriter is in the distant past and now he’s in crisis mode. Even his daughter Jesse (Avery Pizzuto) advises him of Niki’s situation. This is a small town with wide open spaces, but David can barely breathe, and this is perfectly captured by cinematographer Oscar Ignacio Jimenez.

Robert Machoian is the writer-director-producer-editor, and he keeps the characters and situation grounded in reality and familiarity. He was co-director with Rodrigo-Ojeda Beck of GOD BLESS THE CHILD, a film I saw at the 2015 Oak Cliff Film Festival in Dallas, and he possesses a distinct feel for the little things that seem big in life. Crawford expertly captures the essence of a man caught in a grim situation. I would have liked to have seen another interaction between he and Chris Coy, but what we do see is chilling. Take special note of the sound effects from Peter Albrechtsen – highly unusual, but effective in helping us understand the chaos inside David’s head. Mr. Machoian is a filmmaker to follow.

Available in select theaters and VOD on May 14, 2021


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