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Martin Bonner has just moved to Nevada from the East Coast, leaving behind his two adult children and a life he spent more than two decades building. He's there working a new job as the volunteer coordinator for a non-profit organization that helps prisoners make the transition from incarceration to freedom. It's Martin's first job in two years and he's recently declared bankruptcy. At the same time, Travis Holloway, a prisoner in the program, is being released after serving twelve years. Sent back into the world with nothing, Travis also finds life in Reno difficult to adjust to, despite the help from his program sponsor, Steve Helms. The stories of Martin and Travis slowly converge, as the two men meet and find that they have much in common, not the least of which is an unspoken need for encouragement and support. Their unlikely friendship blossoms but is put to the test when Travis betrays Martin's trust in order to reunite with his estranged daughter. Written by
600 West Productions
THIS IS MARTIN BONNER focuses on the lives of two misfits trying to adjust to a new life in the desert city of Reno, Navada. Australian émigré Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) tries to adjust to life as a volunteer in a local jail after having experienced a crisis of faith followed by long-term unemployment. Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette) is released from the same jail, and attempts to forge a new life outside by living in a seedy motel and working as a car park attendant. Both men have grown-up children: Martin communicates mostly by phone, while Travis' daughter Diana (Sam Buchanan) hasn't seen her father since he went to prison twelve years previously. When father and daughter do meet, the conversation remains awkward, to say the least. Chad Hartigan's low-budget drama focuses on the loneliness of the two protagonists' lives as they spend their evenings in nondescript rooms, roam the streets either on foot, in the car or on the bus, and try to connect with people around them. Reno is hardly the place for lonely men to live; the streets are deprived of pedestrians, while cars endlessly shoot by on the interstate highway. The skies are crystal-clear, but the architecture seems to be deliberately designed to shut out as much daylight as possible. Sean McElwee's cinematography sums up the protagonists' lives through a clever use of framing; on several occasions their profiles are seen at the extreme left or right of the frame looking desolately at the landscape stretching endlessly before them. Even when they try to communicate, they are verbally challenged: what is not said is more significant than what is said. The narrative of THIS IS MARTIN BONNER unfolds at a slow pace, but the film remains a penetrating study of life in an impersonal city.
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