A gay man and his homophobic brother must take a road trip together in order to take their recently deceased father’s ashes to their resting place, in the comedy feature Elijah’s Ashes.
Independent comedy feature films don’t land on our desks very often, and well-crafted independent comedy features are even more rare. Yet we have been very lucky this past week to have been given the chance to watch an American comedy that manages to hit the humor bullseye with hilarious consistency. Having carved his career to date with short films and the television shows Lexus Man and Killer Friend, director Ryan Barton-Grimley has managed to create a bittersweet tale of sibling rivalry and trying to be accepted for something you cannot change.
Lawrence Shaw (played deadpan by Ari Schneider) is a marketing guru who has to hide is sexuality to potential clients while his boyfriend doesn’t believe he is gay enough to have a serious relationship with. Lawrence receives word that his father has passed away – having driven his car into a tree. He makes his way to the funeral where he meets up with his homophobic and low-life brother (played by director Ryan Barton-Grimley) Kevin, and his drunk mother June (Christinna Chauncey). After the funeral, a lawyer informs the trio that the house is to be left to both brothers should they complete the task of transferring the father’s ashes across the country to his final resting place, and a comedy road trip ensues.
Elijah’s Ashes is a well-written, well-performed and well-paced piece that it becomes proof in itself that low budget films can truly entertain when done right. This is done right. Schneider and Barton-Grimley both give excellent performances as the two Shaw brothers. Whilst redneck Kevin gets the better one-liners, they wouldn’t work half as good if they didn’t have Schneider’s “playing it straight-faced gay man” to bounce it all off. They really do work well together.
As Mark Twain once famously stated, “humor is tragedy plus time”, and this is the case with Elijah’s Ashes. Taking what could have been an emotional scenario – two estranged brothers bonding after the passing of a parent – and amping up the comedy, it makes for a very real yet very funny film that has sentiment and humanity and laughs in equal measurement.
Cinematographer Sean Ayers lenses the film to nice effect, with some great use of framing and lighting. Just from the opening shot, you know that the following film is an American comedy. The score is a little different, but it very much reminded me of French cinema and it wouldn’t have felt out of place in a Jean Pierre Jeunet feel-good movie.
Elijah’s Ashes has been doing the festival circuit this year and has been picking up multiple awards as it goes. It’s easy to see why. The movie is being released in little over a week on DVD and Video on Demand by Summerhill Entertainment, we recommend grabbing a copy as soon as it’s available. You won’t be disappointed.