When a dutiful, albeit barren Christian housewife discovers that her devout husband has suffered a stroke at a sperm bank where he's been secretly donating his seed for the past 25 years, she leaves her sheltered world and starts off on a journey to find his eldest biological son - a mullet-headed, foul-mouthed ex-con with whom she develops an odd but meaningful relationship. Written by
When Linda asks Raymond in her car if he's in some kind of trouble, the camera cuts away a few times to her reaction, and it's obvious she's reacting to a different actor with a much darker beard. See more »
How leads and writing elevate a film to a new level
Rachel Harris has a familiar face and a personality that one has been exposed to before. She has been in a number of background roles, from Ed Helms' nagging wife in The Hangover, Greg's loving mother in the ongoing Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, and a number of Television roles, portraying numerous different characters.
Harris embodies quite possibly one of her trickiest roles to date in Robbie Pickering's Natural Selection, a charming, wholesome independent film that doesn't overcompensate either of those qualities. She plays Linda White, a heavily-sheltered, quietly morose Christian housewife who has been married to her husband Abe (John Diehl) and has never acted on sensual impulses because her husband's devout beliefs have told him it's a sin to act purely on horniness. Linda will not admit it, but the fact that her long marriage has remained drab and sexless is physically and mentally draining her.
When Abe is hospitalized and quickly approaching death, his dazed remarks about having an illegitimate kid on the count of frequent visits to sperm banks comes up and Linda commits to a cross-country trip from Texas to Florida to find the kid and bring him back to see his biological father before his death. The kid is a twenty-three year old punk named Raymond (Matt O'Leary), who has long been addicted to substance abuse, recklessness, alcohol, danger, and anything anti-normality. He is the polar opposite of sweet, religiously disciplined Linda, and by traveling across the country to get him, she must drive him back home, which gives the viewer some time to dive deeper into both their personalities.
What amazes me from a screenplay standpoint is the realism between the characters Rachel and Raymond. Being opposites, we see Raymond's cold, unmoving feeling of her being "some weird bitch who showed up on my doorstep claiming her husband is my biological (bilateral) father) and we see Rachel's sweet side basically reiterating, "there's a good boy in there somewhere." And we can definitely see, mainly from the film's extensive depiction of it, that years of religious practice and her husband's celibacy that those circumstances have made a truly patient, understanding woman, only making her relationship with Raymond work on multiple different levels that never seem to stretch beyond ones' imagination.
And again, the film largely works not only because of its screenplay, but because of its beautiful performances and sincerely, delicately captured southern locations that are equal parts warm and gritty. Matt O'Leary's character is wonderfully portrayed here, and Harris only brings out the most in him as an actor. Natural Selection shows us how performances and writing that is focused and alive can truly bring us a picture that otherwise could've been captured in a dim, shoddy light.
Starring: Rachel Harris, Matt O'Leary, Joe Diehl, and Jon Gries. Directed by: Robbie Pickering.
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