Around The Bay

Around The Bay


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

With the imprint of the summer blockbuster action still burned across our retinas, it’s easy to forget that sound is as an important a cinematic tool as vision. And subverting audience expectations by tweaking the soundscape can be a terrific way of helping the watcher get to the heart of the story. Of course, denying an audience access to what characters are saying can also backfire spectacularly – as it did with last year’s festival journeyman A Bullet In The Head, which muted the dialogue so much that it resulted in a total failure of communication.

When it comes to failure to engage, Wyatt (Steve Voldseth) could teach even director Jaime Rosales a thing or two. He might have the blarney at work but, at home, he doesn’t even try to make the grade. He is so distant at the dining table between he and his five-year-old son Noah, it might as well be 10 miles wide. “We talk,” he says, adding in a beautiful non-sequitur, “I couldn’t even tell you what we talk about.”

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When Wyatt’s latest girlfriend (Katherine Darling) walks out on him, he reaches out to his already estranged daughter Daisy (Katherine Celio, whose name we ought to be hearing a lot more of) offering her a life of comparative ease if she’ll take care of the kid. She agrees, but, naturally, as someone not long out of childhood herself, and subconsciously confronting parental issues with Wyatt, she finds looking after a high-energy small person pretty tough. Bonds, however, can form in the most unlikely of places…

The direction of Alejandro Adams is reassuringly muscular – it makes its presence felt but is always pushing the story forward rather than preening. Instead of entering the sensory deprivation world of Bullet In The Head, Adams plays with the soundscape sensitively and sparingly, and as part of an arsenal of other directorial weapons, to drive home his point about the fragility and failures of communication and, conversely, the surprisingly tough and sinewy nature of familial ties. So, as we see people lapse into silence, the conversation on the soundtrack continues, leaving us to speculate as to whether this is an exchange from the past, future or – most likely – simply the words that each of the protagonists imagines or wishes are being said.

There is no doubt that patience is required to fully appreciate Adams’ debut – but it is a patience that is justly rewarded. His camera swims in and out of scenes, capturing as much of the everyday happenings for Daisy and Noah as the moments of high drama. He elicits beautifully naturalistic performances from all his cast, but particularly Connor Maselli, who, thankfully, is a real, living, breathing boy as opposed to the usual Pinocchio types drafted in from central casting.

The cinematography belies the budget and is aided greatly by the pool at the house Wyatt owns – all glinty sunlight and hidden depths - which comes to symbolise everything from the freedoms and possible dangers to the currents running through the relationships. The end result is a fascinating hybrid of naturalism and something much more stylised, marking out Adams as a director who knows what he wants from his films and isn’t afraid to push a few boundaries to achieve it.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2009
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A summer in the lives of a fractured family.
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Director: Alejandro Adams

Writer: Alejandro Adams, Katherine Celio, Katherine Darling, Bronica DeCarlo, Sherrill Lawrence, Connor Maselli, Debra Niestat, Katelyn Sacks, Michael Umansky, Steve Voldseth, Valerie Weak

Starring: Steve Voldseth, Katherine Celio, Connor Maselli, Katherine Darling, Michael Umansky, Bronica DeCarlo, Sherrill Lawrence, Debra Niestat, Katelyn Sacks, Larry Kitagawa, Valerie Weak, Bob Skubis

Year: 2008

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US


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