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The Bereft

World Premiere

USA | 98 MINUTES | English |


The American small town is one of the oldest and most reliable muses in film, earning depictions as everything from a Capraesque wonderland of idealism to a Lynchian nightmare of tragic exploits. Tim Daly and Clark Mathis give the muse fresh appeal by merging extremes to somber effect in their assured directing debut. Molly (Vinessa Shaw) is an amateur photographer who swears off car travel after her fiancé Joel is killed by an elderly driver while jogging. As she walks everywhere in her Vermont town, often down the middle of the road, she sees the townspeople's sickeningly methodic lives as never before. Privately, she listens to Joel's last phone messages every night and constantly feels his presence. In public, Molly assumes an expressionless façade that hides the anguish from her smothering mother, too-young sister, and passive-aggressive boss, never letting on that losing Joel meant losing touch with the temporal world. The tempest brewing in her soul finds release through a volatile young man (Tim Blake Nelson) and his uncle (Tim Daly), the town troublemakers whose white trash existence couldn't be further from Molly's austere upbringing, but to whose aura of danger Molly is drawn as a respite from her own quiet desperation. Shaw's achingly ambivalent performance anchors this quiet work while Nelson's gleeful recklessness provides a subtle touch of levity. Daly adds an air of foreboding in front of the camera. Behind it, he and Mathis frame the Vermont countryside as a picture postcard, but it's an image whose tranquility appears profoundly misleading upon closer inspection.