Inorte 1998 Franka Potente earned her movie-star stripes by taking the lead role in Run Lola Run. Potente pasa gran parte de esa película, como el título podría sugerir, in constant motion as her character hares around Berlin trying to find 100,000 deutsche marks to save her imperilled boyfriend. In stark contrast, for her first feature as a writer-director Potente has conceived a story about people mostly stuck in one place, literally and metaphorically.
For the last 20 años, protagonist Marvin (In the Valley of Elah’s Jake McLaughlin, impressive enough here to make you wonder where he’s been for the last few decades) has been confined to a prison cell, serving time for a stupid, pointless murder he committed as a young man. Newly released, with only a skateboard for a ride and the tracksuit he went in with, Marvin rolls back to the only place he can go, his childhood home in a crappy California town, somewhere between the Central Valley and the Mojave desert. His mom Bernadette (Kathy Bates) is slowly wasting away with lung cancer, cared for by kindly home help Jayden (Lil Rel Howery).
The thoughtful twist Potente has worked into the material is that Marvin truly regrets the crime that destroyed his life. Nearly everyone else in the town, especially the surviving members of Marvin’s victim’s family, are still stuck in the past and resume a pointless game of revenge towards him and Bernadette, with bricks through their window and more. sin embargo, Delta (Aisling Franciosi, fantastic here as she was in The Nightingale y The Fall), the granddaughter of the woman Marvin killed is a young woman with her own dodgy secrets, and she starts to see the humanity in Marvin; she regrets the persecution her brother (James Jordan) insists on meting out, a symptom of his own damaged past.
The set-up teeters on the edge of cliche, but Potente and the fine cast keep it from toppling over by restraining the emotional torque of the material. It ends up being a film with long stretches of quiet, all the better to add drama to the big scene in the end in a church run by Stephen Root’s sweaty but sweet local priest.