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The Motel Life (2012)

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A pair of working-class brothers flee their Reno Motel after getting involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident.


, (as Gabriel Polsky)
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew Lee ...
Young Frank
Boss Man
Polly Flynn
Earl Hurley
Al Casey
Barry Hurley
Officer Cook
Officer Mori
Jim Gray ...
Boxing Sportscaster


Two brothers who are forced to leave Reno after being involved in a hit-and-run accident. Based on the novel by Willy Vlautin, this moody thriller is a searing and profound examination of brotherhood set in the timeless Sierra Nevadan frontier. Written by Polsky Films

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They will do anything to find the truth

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content, language, some nudity, brief violent images, and drug references | See all certifications »

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

8 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Vida em Motéis  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The cast and crew of The Motel Life lived in a casino during the shoot. See more »


[first lines]
Jerry Lee 16 years: Can you tell me a story, Frankie? Tell me something good. Make me the hero. Maybe I can get the girl.
Frank - 14: I got one. A long time ago, you and me were fighter pilots in the war. The Flannigan brothers. We were famous. One morning we were heading over to Germany when we got ambushed. You and me versus 20 German fighters. It was a mess. Real dog fight. It was touch-and-go, but we were winning until a Nazi came out of the fog and started firing away at you. Luckily I came down and blew the...
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Features Bonanza: Dark Star (1960) See more »


Fit To Be Tied
Written by Jonathan Clay
Performed by Jonathan Clay
Courtesy of Truly Music Inc.
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User Reviews

Road Move Involving Two Down-and-Outs with Genuine Creative Talent
15 March 2016 | by (London) – See all my reviews

The initial premise for Alan and Gabriel Polsky's low-budget indie movie is a familiar one. Two brothers - Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry-Lee (Stephen Dorff) make a childhood pact never to be separated. They hole up at a Reno motel, where we discover that Jerry-Lee has killed someone, forcing the brothers to move on to another seedy motel in a remote small town during the depths of winter. The focus centers on the rootlessness of their lives as they try to make the best of unprepossessing circumstances.

Several road movie conventions are present in the movie - the use of shots of deserted, often soulless highways; the impersonality of motel rooms with their identikit furniture and cramped living conditions; and the seedy roadside cafés where Frank spends much of his time having snatched conversations with passing acquaintances before buying food for his disabled brother. The two of them have never enjoyed a settled existence; like nomads they move from place to place, making the best of primitive living conditions.

What lifts this film above the run-of-the-mill is the emphasis on the brothers' creativity. Jerry-Lee has only one leg, the result of a childhood accident when he fell off a moving train. But this handicap does not prevent him from being a talented artist. His abilities relate directly to one of the film's major themes, realized through Mike Smith's brilliant animation. Frank is a storyteller, weaving fantasies of male heroism and female conquest every night to keep Jerry-Lee amused; these fantasies are portrayed on screen, suggesting that Jerry-Lee is using his god-given talent to create mental images in his imagination. Through this device we learn something of the brothers' potential; despite their humdrum lives, they have stories to tell that can engage our interest just as deeply as those higher up the social scale.

Alan and Gabriel Polsky's use of music is striking, not only evoking the mood of each scene but creating a wistful ambiance, making us realize how people often have little or no opportunity to make use of their talents. THE MOTEL LIFE may be a modest movie, but it is certainly compelling.

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