|Index||7 reviews in total|
I decided to write this review in order to counterbalance the negative
one posted by Farron34.
I liked this movie very much, because it showed real people and their simple lives. Because for Travis just out of prison, even a squalid motel room is a gift, and you perceive it without one word said in that regard. The way he walks out in the chilly air with a hot cup of coffee to look at the "outside" with a fantastic 360° pan around him showing real America: freeway, cars, asphalt, anonymous buildings, bright advertisement - nothing exceptional but the beautiful sunset light of the Nevada desert.
I liked the way it criticizes the Church of Christians, of the zealots, of those who live off the church and its charity but the observation is done gently and respectfully. There is more but you have to see it for yourself, the joy is in the details.
If you want spectacle and glitz this movie is not for you but if you want to observe a few human beings dealing with their banal, only life, filled with the little things that make it worth living, well, this is an excellent movie.
I came into this film expecting a character driven story without much action and that is exactly what I got. Overall, I liked the film. Each character's back story helped guide the audience into understanding what was currently going on. The characters are so well explained that I was able to relate to them and empathize with them. Travis is such a heartbreaking character that you almost feel relieved Martin comes along into his life. I can't leave out that beautiful 360 degree pan the camera takes in the hotel parking lot. Really effective method to help put yourself into the character's position of confusion and being at a crossroads, not knowing where to go or how to proceed. The only thing that left me a little unsatisfied with the story was that it kind of felt the relationship between Martin and Travis was simply one way. I don't feel Travis' character gave anything to Martin's character. That was the only thing I had against the film. Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette gave exquisite performances. Pretty decent film and can't wait to see how this director continues to develop as he continues to make movies.
This fine little flick is a quick drive-by look at or into a brief
moment in another persons life.
We never get a full background on any of the characters because the story just starts and then ends. What happens in between is one man, Bonner, driven to help others and never fully knowing if his efforts have actually helped.
And another man,Travis, needing help and not fully knowing if he is capable of meeting its' challenges. He needs help due to his past! His daughter has a brief visit which only accentuates Travis's insecurity.
I'm only giving seven stars because I don't feel enough character was given to Bonner to have just that name in the title. Travis actually plays the major role.
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).
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is Chris Hartigan's second feature, mainly shot in Reno, Nevada.
It's a low key story about Australian native Martin Bonner, a volunteer
counselor for a Christian-based group who has a mentoring program to
rehabilitate convicts. Ironically, one of the most powerful scenes in
the film is right at the beginning, when Bonner and his
mentor-supervisor, interview an angry black inmate, to consider him for
their program. The impatient, arrogant inmate disparages their attempt
to help him and declines to participate.
We're then introduced to another inmate, Travis, who decides to join the Christian grouphe's been incarcerated for over ten years for a DWI vehicular manslaughter. Bonner meets with Travis first but informs him that he's just the coordinator for the program, and that he's actually assigned to a regular mentor. Bonner gives Travis his card and tells him to call him anytime if he needs help.
Travis is set up at a motel and has dinner with his regular mentor and his wife. There's a good scene in the church where we get a sense that Travis is not too excited by all the Christian 'devotion'. Later that's confirmed when he has lunch with Bonner and confesses that his mentor's faith has no meaning to him. Bonner reciprocates by confessing that he too, lost 'faith' in the church a couple of years ago, after working for a Christian organization for quite some time.
Bonner is the far better developed character than Travis. Hartigan fleshes out Bonner a bit by depicting his relationship with a daughter and son. The daughter is far away in Maryland, married with child, and Bonner often talks to her on the phone. The son is an artist but never returns his father's phone calls. Finally, the son sends him one of his oil paintings as a present but still never speaks with his father. That's a plot strand that goes nowhere as we never meet the son and no direct conflict between them, is depicted. Similarly, when Bonner goes speed dating and meets a woman, there's no follow up; an opportunity for some additional drama is lost. I did like how Bonner's back story includes mention of his days as a rock musician playing for his band 'Kopyright'. At one point, Bonner puts on an old 8 track tape from his old band, and dances to it while alone at home (the music also plays during the closing credits).
On the other hand, we find out little about Travis, including details about the crime he was incarcerated for, his life in prison as well as his earlier days. Instead, the earlier history is supposed to be filled in with the awkward questions he asks his daughter, who has driven three hours by bus, to meet him for lunch.
This meeting is the central dramatic moment in the film. Travis brings Bonner to the lunch with his daughter on the pretext that she's requested him all along. Bonner soon discovers that it was Travis who wanted Bonner to tag along and the daughter had no prior knowledge that he was coming. Bonner expresses his disappointment with Travis and leaves him to fend for himself. The conversation then deteriorates with Travis only remembering things about his daughter that occurred years ago, which she can't remember herself.
Suddenly Bonner saves the day by returning to the table and acting as ref between the estranged daughter and desperate father. Did Bonner actually get in his car and drive away and then have a change of conscience? Or did he plan it this way, stand outside and give them a few minutes, knowing all along that they needed him to come back and restore some semblance of equilibrium? All Mr. Hartigan wants us to know that ultimately Bonner came back and saved the day.
Now Travis owes Bonner a favor in return. The church group videotapes Travis' testimonial which consists of two short questions, putting minimal pressure on the recalcitrant former inmate. And that's it folks! If you're looking for high stakes, you will not find it here. 'This is Martin Bonner' advertises Travis committing some kind of big 'betrayal'; one might expect some kind of violent incident since it involves a character who is an ex-con. But all it comes down to is a lack of confidence on the ex-inmate's part and a white lie to cover up this lack of confidence.
The film's ace in the hole is Paul Eenhoorn who is excellent as the sturdy program coordinator. Hartigan must be commended for fashioning this low-key drama that keeps your interest to the end. For future efforts, however, he needs to focus more on character development, higher stakes in the plot as well as creating a denouement that doesn't end too abruptly and feels a bit more satisfying than what occurs here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure what to make of this film, it came across as very
disjointed. The characters seemed very shallow and not really at all
interesting or engaging. There were several scenes that seemed out of
place or completely needless. Many scenes also seemed far too long and
awkward. Honestly, it's a miracle I made it through the whole film and
didn't turn it off. I kept hoping it would get better. Not so much. I
am amazed this film is rated as high as it is.
Cinematically, that camera work was nothing special. However, there were a few scenes where the camera work was distracting and also a few awkward slow-motion moments. The acting seemed very rigid, and not natural at all. It also seemed a bit preachy in spots, it appears that regurgitation of an agenda was more important than a dynamic story.
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