A woman's life is derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down, and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes ... See full summary »
In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
A single mother and her embattled son struggle to subsist in a small Mississippi Delta township. An act of violence thrusts them into the world of an emotionally devastated highway store owner, awakening the fury of a bitter and longstanding conflict. Written by
'Ballast' is Lance Hammer's first feature film (he also directed the film short,'Issaquena'--unseen by yours truly),and is a quiet,powerful portrayal of three damaged souls & trying to pick up the pieces,heal and move on. The story opens as Lawrence (played by Michael J.Smith,Jr.)is living in a comatose state of shock,after his twin brother had committed suicide sometime earlier. His nephew,James (played by new comer Jim Myron Ross)is a 12 year-old youth that is just a breath away from mixing with the wrong crowd & is potentially embarking on a life of crime,and is not surprisingly angry with life in general. His embittered Mother,Marlee (played by Tarra Riggs)is divorced from Lawrence's brother & carries a chip on her shoulder the size of the Mississippi Delta itself (where it was filmed in the dead of Winter,to give the film it's bleak look). It seems that the two brothers once had dreams of making it big in radio,but ended up co owning a convenience store. There is bad blood between Lawrence & Marlee (she tells James to stay away from his Uncle,but sneaks away to see him--'tho not for always the most honorable purposes). It's up to these three to make amends for what has happened and try to find a way to move on from the past. Lance Hammer writes,directs from his own original screenplay,as well as edits this small,quiet story of desperation & redemption. I really admired the use of cinematographer,Lol Crawley's hand held camera work,which conveyed the sense of perspective. The near,non existent use of music also worked well for this film (no original music score---only a few snippets of music appear in the background,generally on television or radio). The film's slow pacing may tax the patients of some who can't deal with a film that isn't fast paced,with scenes only lasting no longer than ten seconds. This small film won praise at the 2008 Sundance festival. It's easy to see why. Seek this one out. Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains pervasive strong language,a bit of non graphic violence,and much smoking.
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