Generational Sins


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Generational Sins
"MacPherson is a force to be reckoned with."

Sometimes the safest way to deal with the past is to keep it at a distance. Drew (one time Neighbours star Daniel MacPherson) has been doing that for a long time. He still gets flashbacks - fleeting memories of a baseball bat, his father's angry voice, the corners in which he hid - but he's just about functioning. Until, that is, his dying mother asks him to take his little brother back to the place where they were born.

Will (Dax Spanogle) has no memory of what happened there; he was still tiny when they left. Now he's an adult who doesn't understand why his brother is such a mess, and resents him for failing to spend time with the family. His lack of curiosity or insight isn't particularly surprising, though, because he takes this approach with everyone and everything else, too. Perhaps it's worse now because he's grieving. Perhaps it's not really his fault. And yes, this is another of those films (always written by men) in which guys like this hitting on much better looking women with maximum sleaze still get the results they want.

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The film is structured around the two men's journey into what Will identifies as redneck territory, making an effort to insult everyone in sight even after he's got a fist in the face for his trouble. Drew tries hard to smooth things over, but there's more to this than just good naturedness. Afraid that he will become like his father, Drew is continually struggling to suppress his own violent impulses. It becomes harder in his hometown, but it also becomes more important, as he reconnects with high school sweetheart Rachel (Barrett Donner) and wonders if it might still be possible to build the sort of life he might otherwise have had.

We're in TV movie territory here, not helped by a sentimental soundtrack that loops every 16 seconds and proves deeply distracting in key emotional scenes. An unnecessary epilogue adds to the schmaltz. MacPherson, however, is a force to be reckoned with. His raw performance captures the precarious emotional balance of many trauma survivors and brings everything else into focus. Though much of the dialogue he's given is clich├ęd, he makes it his own and makes Drew's story relatable, providing a backbone for the wider narrative.

The film is something of an antidote to standard Hollywood portrayals of small town life. It doesn't pretend everything is rosy or morally sound, but it sets out to portray people working hard to maintain a place they love, and in this it largely succeeds. Much of the direction is pedestrian, however, and each time it resorts to picture postcard shots it undermines itself. We never quite get the sense of place that we should. Its treatment of religious issues is similar; it is at its strongest when addressing them indirectly, but seems to feel obliged to hammer home its points from time to time.

Rough and uneven, Generational Sins is not the sort of film that will be passed along from father to son. It is, however, an adequate vehicle for MacPherson to demonstrate what he's capable of, and that's worth watching.

Reviewed on: 01 Oct 2017
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A man is asked by his dying mother to take his brother back to the place where they were born.

Director: Spencer T Folmar

Writer: Spencer T Folmar, Dax Spanogle

Starring: Daniel MacPherson, Dax Spanogle, Barrett Donner, Kristen Jezek, Bill Farmer

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


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