I'll give you some headlines and then expand, if I may. Soundly written. Nicely made. Highly annoying soundtrack. Poorly acted. Too many threads. Far from reality/Fairy dust education.
Let me preface everything here by saying that I am an academic. I have been for 30+ years. So, forgive my immodesty here if I claim to know a thing or two about universities and the people in them. What 'The Historian' presented has one toe of one foot in a small corner of university reality, but the other 4 toes and the entire other foot is far, far, FAR from what happens in universities. Because, in truth, life there is much weirder, much more vicious, much more conspiratorial and infinitely more clown like than this film portrays. Still, now I've said that, onward...
Soundly written - There is much to praise in the writing here. Miles Doleac, who did all the hard work here in terms of both the script and the direction, not to mention his own acting performance, put together a mostly believable script with reasonably well-rounded characters (with some exceptions). There are holes in the story that needed to be fleshed out better (or just dropped altogether - more on that later) but, on the whole, it's a meritorious effort in terms of the script (if a little heavy-handed in 'the message'). Sadly though, the story also ultimately ends with a cliché which, now that I have seen the film, was in truth clearly evident from the beginning. It needed to go down another road if the viewer was to be satisfied.
Nicely made - quite a simple directorial style here with some clear, easily accessible camera work. It drags its heels sometimes, however, in its pursuit of 'the grand narrative' when it should have moved on more swiftly. Nevertheless, it's a good effort and the cinematography gets full credit from this reviewer.
Highly annoying soundtrack - oh dear, this is where the film begins to annoy. And annoy it does. The dour, miserable music chosen drags us down long before the film turns on its dark course which is a pity because it could have been a better film without the score that was chosen. Now, I'm not suggesting that such a miserable message this film contains should have toe-tapping cheery tunes but there's been much too much of this type of 'lonely chanteuse' style presented in other films. It's now a bore. Don't do it.
Poorly acted - I mentioned before that Miles Doleac turns in a sound performance given that this was his project in most areas and hats off to him for all he did. The acting by some others, however, was just too far removed from the believable. Or, as my great Aunt used to say, 'Just too thick to swallow'. In particular, Jillian Taylor's turn as the oh-so-chipper Anna (who we quickly see from early on is the one who's going to be the real loser here) grates badly. She needed to turn it down a lot and portray your typical grad student in a way we could believe - worn out, fed up, flat broke, abandoned and desperate. Colin Cunningham (as the straight-off-the shelf-just-add-batteries departmental weirdo Chris Fletcher) was another wholly unbelievable character. His attempts at comic relief failed and, in truth, the film would have been able to tell the same story without him. Even dear old William Sadler (an actor I admire very much) hammed it up enough for me to lose faith in his character, Valerian Hadley, quite quickly too. Vaccilating between looking like he was under sedation most of the time to promoting the idea being crazy was all the rage, he soon looked like a man with nothing left to lose in this film. I felt a bit sorry for him to be honest because he has the capacity to pack some serious performing into his roles. All in all, the above (except for Miles Doleac's character, Ben Rhodes) gave the viewer little to cling to by way of meaningfulness.
Too many threads - Mr. Doleac. Thanks for showing us your insides. All your hopes, all your sadness, all your love turned into stone, all your loss, all your broken dreams, all the people and places you have known. Now, what have you got left for next time? Screaming and shouting? A puppet show? Because they are just about the only things you didn't reveal here. Now, don't get me wrong; I like to see fully formed characterization - people who wear their flaws on their sleeves as much as they do their hearts. But, really, don't try to pack so much into one story. Plus, is it never sunny where you are? It just rains and rains on everyone? We go on with the show but...don't lose sight of the fact that life's funny too. Damned funny, actually. Let's see some of that next time, eh?
Far from reality/Fairy dust education - The silly ending of 'teacher as hero'. Yawn...please...come on! In an era when colleges survive by churning out future systems analysts and lawyers, no-one, NO-ONE, is going to see a lecture theater packed to the gills with students oh-so-anxious to study the classics. That don't pay the bills and the Bank of Mum and Dad ain't going to fund it either. That ending made me feel empty inside...pity.
Overall, 5/10. Looking forward to see if Miles Doneac has more up his sleeve. I hope so because I have a feeling he could write a great story and make a great film out of it too. Good luck.
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