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DIRECTED BY: Sophie Lane Curtis
FEATURING: Micheál Richardson, Sophie Lane Curtis, Keith Powers, Paul Ben-Victor, Adam G. Simon
PLOT: A first-time filmmaker’s movie dreams are crushed when tragedy strikes; a ghost helps him complete his script.
COMMENTS: “People don’t want to see his hopeful ending,” says financier Adler as On Our Way‘s first act comes to a close. “They want to see dark, twisted, freaky, gritty, bizarre weird shit.” That statement, delivered at the close of the first act, makes me question the supposedly savvy Adler’s appraisal of public taste. It also leads me to believe that this movie will definitely have a happy ending. I won’t spoil whether that expectation is met or not.
To the small extent that On Our Way is weird, it’s weird in an expectedly indie way: a somewhat fragmented storyline with editing to match, the occasional arty shot from an unexpected angle, mildly surrealistic imagery like the bank of televisions on the beach or a tunnel of bedsheets, and flirtations with meta-movie shenanigans that nevertheless keep the line between fantasy and reality clear. It deviates slightly from Hollywood formulas, but never approaches the “bizarre weird shit” that the public is supposedly clamoring for.
The plot is ambitious for many reasons, not in the least for daring the pitfall-laden “struggling filmmaker makes a first film” scenario. Starting from what appears to be novice filmmaker Henry’s suicide attempt, the script incorporates numerous flashbacks as it jumps back and forth in time between his romance with the leading lady in his autobiographical film and his relationship with his father, a disreputable but kindly drunk given to wearing layers of gold chains while dancing around shirtless with a joint in one hand and a whiskey in the other. The details of this both tragic relationships are slowly revealed alongside the gradual sabotaging of the film-within-the-film by the heavy-handed producer. The storytelling is handled cleanly enough that we never get confused by all the shuttling about, although the dialogue is sometimes a bit cringeworthy (“you know that feeling when you’re like ‘how the hell did I get here?’ There ought to be a word for that.”). It’s also not an extraordinarily fresh or engaging tale, although it has just enough narrative and emotional heft to it keep you watching. Technical details (sound, cinematography, editing, etc.) are all handled with competence. The acting, on the other hand, can be uneven, with (unfortunately) Curtis’ performance as love interest Rosemary the low ebb.
The odd thing about On Our Way is that, for her first film, writer Curtis casts herself not as the struggling artist, but as the struggling artist’s stand-by-your-man muse. This might come across as humility, but the problem is that she under-writes a role she created for herself. Curtis provides Henry a wealth of personal history, while Rose is… beautiful and self-sacrificing, with no backstory or motivation of her own. She exists merely to love and be lost; a manic pixie dream girl without the pixyish mania. But Curtis was only 26 when this was completed, and probably younger when it was conceived and written. Her direction is solid, her plotting is decent, and while she might be fine in some more limited roles, I think her future may lie more behind the camera than in front of it.
and Franco Nero are prominently mentioned on the poster, but their actual cameo makes an eye blink seem like an eternity.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: