c 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins
If you are looking for the plastic eye-candy and shallow script that is so common in today’s movies, the kind where the plot is handed to you on a silver platter, this is not your kind of movie. But if you enjoy insightful and emotional irony, symbolism and empathy, this new film from Intuition Film Productions amply provides an intelligent story about the common thread of dysfunctional families and how they deal with life.
Buck Run, in rural Pennsylvania, serves as the backdrop for the film. Director Nick Frangione has a special connection to the place; it is his hometown. It is not surprising that Buck Run is loosely based on Frangione’s own childhood experiences, which is perhaps the reason the movie is so adept at presenting a sense of place. Like so many rural towns across America, Buck Run seems stuck in a time some decades ago. The homes of the film’s two main characters, Shaw (beautifully portrayed by Nolan Lyons) and William (ably played by James Le Gros), look like someone left sometime in the late 70’s and never went back. The bleak surroundings, from snowy woods to a dreary school and a run-of-the-mill crappy flea market, provide the elements of a place which time has forgotten. Those who have visited and lived in similar towns will understand why: even in the best of economic times, not everyone in rural America has the opportunity to flourish.
Fifteen-year-old Shaw Templeton is an emotional mess that has left him in shock and unsure of what to do. After spending a day and a half with the body of his deceased mother (Amy Hargreaves), Shaw is besieged by a slew of grown-ups who discover his situation. They aren’t inclined to do much about it other than push the boy off on his estranged father William, an impoverished alcoholic who can barely take care of himself, let alone his son. This less-than-ideal scenario only isolates Shaw further; he literally has nobody else to turn to. Furthering his troubles is the stark realization that everything familiar to him—namely his loving mother and his comfortable home—is no longer there for him. Closure and love is what this gentle young buck needs, but he seemingly has no way to harness either one.
From his father’s home (look for the symbolic painting of a buck running through the woods among the messy décor), Shaw must find a way to come to terms with his lot in life. His drunk father commandeers his cell phone, disappears and reappears without warning, and is emotionally unable to show love for his son. Shaw’s mother lies at the funeral home, awaiting funeral arrangements as her son is prevented from seeing her and anguishes over her burial. School is hell, as are social settings, when bullies stalk and assault the teen. And William has borrowed five grand from his buddy John (Kevin J. O’Connor), but blew it all on something he won’t talk about. The only glimmers of hope Shaw can find are in a kindly schoolmate named Robbie (Luke Embeck) and the local cop (Jim Parrack), who apathetically chastises the teen for smoking but finally asks how he’s getting along. In the end, it is up to Shaw to fight back, take matters into his own hands however he can, and, ultimately, see redemption in his father for William’s unseen and unappreciated efforts.
In this first film by Intuition Film Productions, screenwriter David Hauslein has made a noble effort in his presentation of a family in the throes of hardship. The movie is well-cast and the performances are candid. Lyons’ Shaw Templeton is so real that you want to just take the kid in yourself and give him a warm meal and a place to sleep off his grief-ridden demeanor. Le Gros, a veteran actor known for favoring independent films, does a fine job making William the sad and broken man he is. The excellent and supporting cast includes a cameo appearance by Alicia Goranson (The Connors) as the put-upon prostitute Misty, who must pick up laundry and make sure her kids are watching the tube before tending to business. Our characters go about their humble business to the lonely musical soundtrack set by Chris Brokaw, quite fitting for an emotionally tense film such as this.
For Frangione, who studied under Sundance winning filmmaker Eric Escobar, Buck Run is his fifth effort as director and is well played. Buck Run made its world premiere earlier this month at the Palm Springs Film Festival. To see the trailer on Vimeo, go to https://vimeo.com/309736307.