Reviewed by: James Gracey

Set amid the sprawling and grandiose beauty of Northern California, Redwoods is the story of Everett (Brendan Bradley), an unfulfilled gay man stuck in a passionless though stable relationship. When his partner takes their autistic son on holiday, Everett embarks on a forbidden affair after meeting a struggling writer who teaches him the value of taking risks and living life to the full.

Sounding rather like the synopsis for a Hallmark TV movie of the week, Redwoods pretty much is a Hallmark TV movie of the week. The actors deliver their cliché-ridden dialogue with all the sincerity they can muster as delicate music gently swells and they endlessly analyse their feelings and ‘communicate’ as they wander sappily amid giant redwoods looking around in quiet, slack-jawed awe. When Everett and Chase (Matthew Montgomery) begin their cautious courtship it is laden with gushingly awkward apologies and doe-eyed sighs as they come to realise their burgeoning love for each other. The over-zealous earnestness of proceedings renders the film a rather cheesy affair, and some of the exchanges between characters – while supposed to be tender and honest – come across as cornball and drippy.

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Shot in the gay resort town of Guerneville, Redwoods is set against the backdrop of some of North America’s most striking vistas. Endless green forests spread out before us, strikingly captured by cinematographer Joe Rivera, are elevated to mythical proportions as one character points out that they have been around since before the time of Christ. The redwood trees themselves form the very obvious central metaphor of supposed steadfastness, firm-rootedness and reliability of the main character’s long-term relationship. His risky affair is supposed to put his relationship to the test and push him to the edge in terms of making life-altering choices, yet he never seems to convey anything other than doe-eyed confusion.

The main problem with the film is its attempt to make the audience will Everett to leave his partner of many years, and their severely disabled child, to skip off around the world with a rustic, brooding writer and fulfil his unrealised romantic inclinations. The muddled message takes its toll and many aspects of the story are left unexplored in a script that never really delves too deeply into much of anything. The film feels sparse, even in its scenes of intimate courtship – it’s all a little too controlled and honeyed.

It all boils down to choice, as it usually does in films of this nature; does the fact that Everett isn’t emotionally satisfied justify decimating his home? Why should we care, exactly? The inclusion of the child in the couple’s family serves only to heighten the stakes for Everett and it is a manipulative and too-convenient plot point. Adding further to the mixed messages are the exchanges between Everett and his mother (Elinor Bell), who at times seems to will her son to follow his heart, and then at the last moment reveals to him that she once had an affair but chose to stay with her husband because that’s what people do. They work things out. They build ‘something meaningful’, and don’t throw it away for a fumble in the sack – though she makes it clear that said fumble can provide years of warm memories…

As much as writer/director David Lewis tries to be sincere, contemplative and thought-provoking, his efforts unfortunately fall short. What is essentially a rather subdued and bittersweet tale, could have wielded real emotional resonance was it not so impassively handled.

Reviewed on: 28 May 2010
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The arrival of a struggling writer sparks change for a gay man stuck in a passion-free relationship.
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Director: David Lewis

Writer: David Lewis

Starring: Elinor Bell, Brendan Bradley, Clara Brighton, Laurie Burke, Simon Burzynski, Tad Coughenour, Caleb Dorfman, Matthew Montgomery, Cole Panther, Libby Zilber

Year: 2009

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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