Road to the Well, 2016.
Written and directed by Jon Cvack.
Starring Marshall R. Teague, Micah Parker, Rosalie McIntire, Barak Hardley, Michelle LaFrance, and Laurence Fuller.
Jack (Micah Parker), rolls into town to visit his old friend Frank (Laurence Fuller). Risk averse, free-spirited and bohemian as oppose to repressed, trapped and hemmed in. Jack’s arrival signifies an emotional, psychological and literal upheaval, ensuring things go rapidly south for Frank in a spectacular fashion. School yard memories, bodily dismemberment and fear of mediocrity all help shape this film into a uniquely bold and original thriller.
There are plenty of filmic comparisons worth making in John Cvack’s Road to the Well. Nods to Shallow Grave, tips of the hat for Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, as well as sly winks towards Soderbergh’s first feature Sex, Lies and Videotape. Atmospheric homage can be attributed to the former and latter, while that essence of cool so inherently associated with Fiction has much to do with Cvack’s structural precision.
Taking an idea and executing it without flourishes is something that requires restraint, planning and an eye for detail. A feat this writer director pulls off with an effortless simplicity. Cvack’s chief coup in achieving this is the casting. A little known troupe including Micah Parker, Laurence Fuller and Barak Hardley, build a believable brotherly bond filled with foibles, flaws and long-term friendship pressures all present. In the sparingly employed dialogue and unspoken gestures are echoes of lines crossed, trust tested and unresolved issues simmering beneath the civil exchanges.
Cvack’s use of music to evoke mood, manipulate scenes and promote tension is reminiscent of John Carpenter at his best. While awkward silences and the use of silence itself are expertly employed throughout, keeping you guessing but engaged. Nods to Sex,Lies comes through most strongly in those painfully awkward moments, where the camera does little more than watch. As things progress and slowly unravel Marshall R. Teague’s entrance as Dale takes a known quantity and ups the ante still further.
His is a scene stealing exercise worthy of study in which he dominates the film without grandstanding. With no more than ten minutes screen time Teague paints a vivid picture of isolation, loneliness, duty and discipline. Such is the intensity of these moments, both in terms of character and emotional revelation that Road to the Well becomes a different beast. There are more layers here than first meets the eye, as motivations morph, people change and Cvack subtlety moves his goalposts.
However what remains when the dust clears is a simple, precise and atmospheric piece of filmmaking with some supremely lo-fi acting. Worthy of not only repeat viewings but recommendation in line with its level of originality.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★