52nd Chicago International Film Festival Screening #20: “The View From Tall” (USA)

“The View From Tall” (USA)
Directed by Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss

ct-futures-past-view-from-tall-mov-1014-20161013This first feature for directors Parrish and Weiss is based on the play written by Ms. Parrish and revolves around the relationship between a young woman coming out of a highly controversial sexual relationship and her subsequent clinical relationship with a psychotherapist. There are several aspects of both the film and its production that should preclude me from being even remotely objective in my critical observations of this film…most notably that I am a psychotherapist who works with adolescence, and, perhaps even more damning, I’m friends with many of the people involved in the film, as it relies heavily on Chicago talent. But, I’ll do what I can to point you in the proper direction when considering viewing this film.

The pacing is pretty exceptional for a film based on a play. More often than not, plays adapted for the screen feel stilted, somehow, as plays are written for – or about – a very specific time and location where the surroundings are focused inward on the scene taking place. As a result it’s difficult for these scenes to stand up to the distractions of peripheral vision prevalent in the experience of film. But “View” succeeds in avoiding this pothole. The world the directors have created exists, for the most part,  sufficiently outside of that black box. Likewise, the language of the film, while it can’t help but come across as fairly theatrical in many places, is, nonetheless, engaging and real (even if, occasionally, the dialogue ventures in to “ABC Afterschool Special” patter).

The cast is uniformly strong. Michael Patrick Thornton and Amanda Drinkall are both easy to watch and convincing as our main players, sufficiently evoking the fear and frustration of living in the confined spaces they inhabit. But, for me, the astonishing discovery of the film is Carolyn Braver. As Drinkall’s younger sister, and occasional antagonist, Braver is ferocious and heartbreaking. Her embarrassment, anger, love, desire, and regret are the realest things in the film. Watch for her down the road. An exceptional performance.

So now we come to the score, which is (full disclosure) written by the closest male friend I have on this earth. Lindsay Jones is a singular creative force in the aural world and has written incredible music for hundreds of theater productions, as well as more than a couple kick ass rock’n’roll records via our band, The Nubile Thangs. That said, and as someone who reviews hundreds of scores as part of my process, I’m baffled as to why he doesn’t have a thriving film music career. And here, he rewards my faith with a score that perfectly evokes how adolescents proclaim their individuation via their choices in music – unannounced…in secret…with headphones on and the bedroom door locked to keep our parents, our siblings, our fears and our anxieties out. And while my guess is that the best stuff written for the film was probably left out after editing, the music is very much a part and parcel as to why the film succeeds.

My main issues with the film revolve around the plot structure that introduces the beginning of the second act. Were I not a mental health professional, I may have not thought twice about it. But I am, and I did.

That said, this is a lovely, lovely film about the very real consequences of  decision-making by a woman on the crest of that wave separating adolescence and adulthood. In this manner, “The View From Tall” wildly succeeds and I believe you will find watching it to be very rewarding.

Written on 11/11/2016

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