I had the opportunity to see the premiere of this film a year ago in New York City. It is a film I have to see again. Why? It is so that I may most fully glean its lessons and absorb its extraordinary vision.
A plot line and synopsis can be found above. Therefore, I would like to focus upon reviewing the feature directly without revealing too much so as to allow other viewers to experience the story unaffected by me.
"Kensho at the Bedfellow" is a labor of love by actor, director, and writer Brad Raider. Any time that occurs in art, the piece instantly bounds to the top of the field. While the film is a low budget venture, it never suffers from, but is rather enhanced by the extra effort that had to be put in behind-the-scenes to craft such a masterful work.
The term "kensho" means seeing one's true nature. With the word being a central focus of the title, and resultantly, is the film able to live up to that lofty goal?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on perspective. I found the film to be one of the most highly inspirational pieces I have seen, but I also was at a point in my life last year in which I was not fully awakened to inspiration. As such, I walked away from this film perhaps not wholly aware of all that it offers. It mystifies, perplexes, and offers hues of both comedy and drama that somehow blend together to create a poignant guide to help others explore their own meaning as well. The only way in which this film--as with anything in life--can "change my world" (borrowing from the film's tagline) is by having an open heart entering, by seeking meaning, and by taking action myself. This film does not promise to hold every answer for everyone's essence, but if entering with an open heart, I strongly believe that it is one of the best films to affect personal transformation. Best of all, the film sparks post- viewing discussion with others, which in and of itself is a crucial aspect of transformation.
As for the technical aspects of the film, the actors chosen all live in the parts. Raider is an exceptional lead because he truly inhabits Dan's struggles and vices: his quest between living as he is, unsatisfied, or taking upon the challenge to better himself. Nothing can change his world other than him. Meanwhile, Raider's supporting cast features a goldmine of talent from other acting ventures. This includes Mara Davi (she most recently starred in "Dames at Sea" on Broadway and had a scene-stealing role as Daisy in NBC's "Smash"), who brings in comic flirtation and Kathryn Erbe (from television's Law & Order: Criminal Intent), who conversely delivers tension and drama.
At times, the writing can come across as a play rather than a screenplay, which renders the film different and atypical. This is not to say it is detrimental, simply that the dialogue can be quirky, unique, and unexpected. Furthermore, in looking at screen writing, a project's realism, and how relatable the characters are, is crucial to me. There are moments within the film that veer into surrealism, but I can definitively say that Raider's writing helped me relate.
Finally, the direction and the visuals of "Kensho"--only enhanced when considering the project's budget--are bold, powerful, and fresh. Without spoiling anything, there is a particular sequence within the film that I have never seen before. It is revelatory. (You'll see.) Furthermore, the unique angles, colors, and close-ups on actors all create for a sensory overload of sorts. There is so much offered that it is difficult to process.
This is why I need to watch the movie again. I am all for something different. From the trailer alone, one can see that "Kensho" is different from the outset. Brad Raider is generous with "Kensho at the Bedfellow." In order to gain the most from all that he, his cast, and crew offers, viewers must be open for the journey themselves.
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