Greetings again from the darkness. Jack Ward first appears as the conductor of an orchestra during a live performance. It seems to be going well until he declines a call from his teenage daughter, Melody. See, it’s his day to pick her up from school. When he doesn’t show up, she walks home. After receiving congratulations for the musical performance, tragedy and guilt strike Jack on the same day. And then tragedy strikes again. It’s more than one man can take, and the next time we see Jack, he’s on a mountaintop contemplating suicide.
Writer-director Matt Sconce delivers a story from Christopher Mejia, and much of it takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Actually, the mountains and the shots of nature (filmed by director Sconce) are the standouts here, as it’s terrain that we haven’t seen too often on screen. As a conductor, Jack (Daniel O’Reilly) was the ultimate clean-cut professional. After time on the mountain, he a haggard, worn-down man with little reason to live. He carries a bullet in his boot for the day when he’s strong enough to end things. One day, a mute girl steals food from his backpack. He tracks her down and since he (conveniently) knows sign-language, he learns the mute girl is running from a dangerous family situation. He calls her Aria (Makenzie Sconce, assuming her to be the director’s daughter), and the two bond over skimming stones, fishing, and paper airplanes.
The tension in the story is twofold: flashbacks and the pursuit. Jack and Aria both have their flashbacks to bad times. Jack recalls his mistakes with daughter Melody (Sarah Dorothy Little), while Aria’s dreams remind of her an unbearable life with her dad, Big Al. It’s Big Al’s pursuit of Aria that keeps her and Jack on the lookout. He’s hunting her down since she was witness to his horrible action. There are two distractions here that deserve mention. The eye makeup on Mr. O’Reilly is downright creepy at times, while the orthodontic braces on Aria’s teeth simply don’t belong, given the deep poverty of her home life.
Mr. O’Reilly, young Ms. Sconce, and Ms. Little are fine in their roles, but the other supporting characters, though not on screen for long, are detrimental to flow. The story of redemption and awakening is really nothing new, but the mountainous setting adds a level of differentiation that keeps us interested. A strange ending leaves us wondering, what now?
Available On Demand beginning March 8, 2022