directed by Adam Newport Berra / 2014 / Color / 72 minutes
Brother and Sister. What do those words mean. Friend. Lover. Sibling. All three? Usually not. What if you are telling your soon-to-be-husband that your long lost brother is going to be hanging out for a big Thanksgiving dinner with you and all of your friends?
This epic instance of betrayal is what Adam Newport Berra focuses on in his brilliant contemporary drama, THANKSGIVING. Sometimes films of this nature blend together in my mind. The random, improved conversations. The casual feel, the free flowing (and usually well thought out) cinematography and lighting, the Dogme 95-like production design. All of this is fine but without the right substance, or any at all, can be boring as all get out. I’m not going to start naming names here but sometimes these types of films fall flat. That’s fine. That’s how it works.
THANKSGIVING does not fall into this category. This film has the feel of a Greek tragedy. Everything clicks on all levels. The tension before the great reveal is nerve raking. All of the performances are natural and do well to push the story forward. The actor, Matthew Chastain (who also co-wrote the film), is someone to watch out for. You don’t know why he isn’t good. You can’t quite put your finger on it. There is something off about him. In the end it all makes sense.
Some people want to label a low budget DIY filmmaking movement Mumble Core. Most list as the father of the movement Joe Swanberg. Anytime you have a film movement, its impossible to put your finger on who started what. We are all different people, we are all influenced by different things. Case in point, the French New Wave on the surface congratulates Jean Luc-Godard and Francois Truffaut, whereas the movement would have been nothing without the contributions of Jean Vigo and Louis Malle, as well as many many others.
Thus is the way evolution works. Someone could argue just as much that Richard Linklater has just as much to do with this sort of low budget American cinema, and Kevin Smith as well. CLERKS and SLACKER are the low budget movies that could have been the early evolution/inspiration from the 1990’s. Whoever started this movement, one thing cannot be denied: Brooklyn independent cinema is a force of nature right now and directors like Berra are right in the middle of it.
Check out the trailer here.