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
No, "This Is Martin Bonner" doesn't have any space ships, murdering computers, murdering apes or 20-minute acid trips, but something about it reminds me of the epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think it's the way it approaches the concept of "god", like 2001, presenting the audience with a vision that each person may interpret in a different way.
"This Is Martin Bonner" is a seemingly uneventful 3 days in the lives of Martin Bonner, a Christian social worker who helps ex-convicts adjust to civilian life, and Travis, an ex-con who has just been released. There is a recurring religious angle that pops up occasionally (Martin Bonner was an ex priest who lost his faith), but it's presented in an objective way which allows us to see it the way we want to see it. It neither preaches nor bashes the Christian religion but instead takes us straight up the middle. Like 2001, it presents a powerful message that may be interpreted as spiritual or mundane, godly or existentialistically. But whichever way you take it, there *is* a message.
It's hard to say anything more without injecting my own subjective spin, so I won't. I'll just say this is a slow-moving film with many pauses for reflection, many questions, many answers, and characters whom you generally like. There are no villains, no traditional conflicts other than those each character individually faces within his heart. There are certainly no car chases or shootouts, so if you're looking for that, this ain't the place. But if you're looking for a deep slice of life, then here it is.
I would compare this to other quiet yet powerful films like "About Schmidt" with Jack Nicholson, Wim Wenders' "Paris Texas" and maybe the French "I've Loved You So Long". If you like films that touch on religious themes without coming on too strong in either direction, this fits right alongside the excellent "Sympathy for Delicious" (about a young priest and his faithless rockstar buddy) and "Into Temptation" (about a naïve priest trying to stop a prostitute's suicide).
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