After returning from serving abroad, a soldier decides to visit all the bars of his hometown, where he meets many people from his past in the independent feature Repatriation.
Right from the opening frame of Douglas Muellar’s Repatriation, we knew we were in for a polished and well-crafted film. A gorgeously-lensed wide shot of a street in a Midwestern town, lit by overhead street lamps and interior lights from the windows of a factory – our main character walks from the right of frame to the left. So simple, yet so effective, especially as the trumpets play from Robby Elfman’s excellent score. A shot that tells us exactly what is happening – a soldier, in combat uniform and carrying a Bergen on his back, is returning from duty. There is no need for exposition-filled dialogue or titles explaining what has happened – this simple shot explains all, and it is beautiful to look at.
This opening shot is not a one-off either. Director of Photography Ricky J. Cortez does some sterling work throughout the film. It’s lit and lensed in such a professional manner, that you’d have to check twice to make sure that film wasn’t created with a multi-million dollar budget.
Chad Taylor (Ryan Barton-Grimley from the recently reviewed Elijah’s Ashes) returns to his hometown and decides to visit all the drinking holes. A former star on the school baseball team, Chad is loved by many, but not all, and soon finds himself getting more drunk with every drink bought for him from his past acquaintances. One such person is Camille (Jes Mercer) a girl who had a crush on Chad years earlier. Together they crawl the bars and stop for a few games of pinball and bowling before she hears some, not so nice, rumours about her former crush and leaves him alone in a drunken stupor. In fact, as the night goes on, we learn more about the seemingly-nice guy Chad and how he may not be the person we originally thought.
I was impressed by Barton-Grimley’s acting chops after seeing him in Elijah’s Ashes, now, I have to say, I am extremely impressed. As Chad, he makes the characters and the audience fall for his charms and then he lets us have sneak peaks of the real Chad, the one that isn’t putting up a front in order to get people to like him and to receive free drinks. A colder Chad who is only out for himself and his own selfish needs.
Douglas Muellar, who only has three short films and a couple of documentaries to his name, does a wonderful job at directing Repatriation. Even though the characters seem to go from bar-to-bar and meet character after character, he manages to keep the film utterly interesting and well-paced. We will be looking out for all his future projects from this moment on.
Repatriation is a smart and well-made film, jam-packed full of drama and interesting characters, none more so than Barton-Grimley’s Chad. It’s highly recommended.