In a small American town still living in the shadow of a terrible coal mine accident, the disappearance of a teenage boy draws together a surviving miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive, and a local boy in a web of secrets.
This is the closest thing I've seen to a pound-for-pound masterpiece of American independent cinema in quite some time.
The Mend is both bold AF and air tight (formally) on every level. Camera, performance, writing (oh, god, the writing), music, editing (holy moly, the editing)...just to name the main few. It reads as a bold personal project from an agitated, veteran filmmaker returning to his roots after a line of successful studio films made in other cultures. Assured, meticulous, worldly, and through and through- American.
This movie is a living, breathing paradox. So frantic, manic, and harried, it feels as though it shouldn't congeal and add up in the end. No way it could. But it does. Its characters are simultaneously insane and wild, yet very much people we all know. Theatrical at turns (to great effect), yet deeply rooted in realism. The story is exciting and kinetic, yet simple, minimalist, and human.
If it weren't for the authenticity of emotion in every fiber of this film, the joy ride could be just that- a ride that drops you off without more than ephemeral excitement. But this movie finds its way into your pours. It haunts you in a way only truly great cinema does. It imparts knowledge without attempting to teach.
As one review mentioned- this movie breaks all the rules (something every first time director wants to have the balls to do, but who's intellect and slight of hand rarely seems to match). Oh boy, it matches. Were it studied, I can see how it has the power to discourage or befuddle many a new filmmaker, simply with it's rare, inadvisable brilliance.
I can imagine you might be reading this review, labeling it knee-jerk hyperbole. 'Exit Door Excitement'. I am here to tell you this film has gestated in my levels of consciousness for over 1 year. Three viewings (the most recent being last night). The Mend has continued to impress/scare/bewilder/seduce me. I suspect it always will.
Someone please tell me how this film was not heralded by all those fans of bold new cinema? This is a travesty and I can only hope the filmmakers keep making exactly the films they need to make in order to satisfy their instincts. Those instincts will someday align with a larger audience. If there is any kind of justice in this universe.
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