Oliver Sherman

Oliver Sherman


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

How do you recover from a near death experience? How do you return to civilian life after the adrenaline fuelled bravado of warfare? These are the troubles that plague Sherman Oliver (yes, that is the right way round, and the film does explain) who turns up unannounced at the door of Franklin and his wife Irene, in order to pay gratitude to Franklin for saving his life.

The film begins as it means to continue, the camera slowly absorbing the forlorn features of Sherman and the equally inscrutable landscapes that provide the background to small town America. This is any-town, in any-time. Precisely which war it is that haunts Sherman is never made clear, but this detail quickly becomes unimportant, lost in the captivating and tense nature of the drama that unfolds.

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It is seven years since Franklin saved Sherman’s life in the aforementioned unnamed war, and he has since settled down with a wife and two kids in a small, quiet Mid-Western town. Franklin’s apparent contentment is shattered by the arrival of Sherman, whose inability to leave behind the trauma of warfare may make him unhinged and potentially dangerous.

Redford, and cinematographer Antonio Calvache, do an excellent job of subtly playing with the audience’s nerves. Scenes play out in slow, long takes with the camera either still or moving imperceptiably toward the protagonists. Everything is immaculately well dressed. The claustrophobic tension of the family dynamic being interrupted by a disarming stranger builds and builds through intimate scenes in the Page home. The film blends melodrama with an indescribable unease as Sherman’s erratic behaviour and unsociable manner become increasingly troubling for Franklin and Irene. We soon become aware that this situation cannot end well.

Playing out at just under 90 minutes, Oliver Sherman provides a brief, but powerful, character study of a man cut adrift. Sherman cannot bring himself to reconcile with the normalcy of suburban life, the world of the soldier and the battlefield never far removed from his consciousness. He is brilliantly and quietly performed by perennial supporting actor Garret Dillahunt, with notable turns by co-stars Donal Logue and Molly Parker of HBO’s Deadwood.

It’s a very assured and confident debut from Canadian filmmaker Ryan Redford (no relation to Robert) that marks him out as an interesting director to keep an eye on in future.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2011
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Nerve splintering drama about man's dual capacity for compassion and violence.
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Director: Ryan Redford

Writer: Ryan Redford, based on the short story by Rachel Ingalls.

Starring: Garret Dillahunt, Donal Logue, Molly Parker, Kaelan Meunier, Marla J. Hayes, Fiona Highet, Duane Murray

Year: 2011

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Canada


EIFF 2011

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