Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Shade Shepherd (2019) Film Review
The Shade Shepherd
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Pike (Randy Spence) has been messed up for a long time. Drink and drugs help him to cope but he's not really functional and his younger brother Jack (Jordon Hodges) has long been aware that there's a risk of him getting into serious trouble. When Pike wakes up one day covered in blood, with no memory of what happened the night before, it's Jack he calls. They hear that Pike is wanted as murder suspect but Jack, convinced he would never do anything like that, offers to get him to the Canadian border, potentially saving his life. Along the way the two run into various kinds of trouble and begin to understand in each other in ways they never did before.
Chris Faulisi's drama hinges on a surprise in the final act and, like many such films, struggles from an unfortunate shortage of idea along the way. Spence brings more three dimensionality to his role than might have been expected but Hodges does very little as the slightly prim psychiatrist who's certain he understands everything from the outset, so the dynamic between the brothers doesn't really have the energy it needs. As Jack's heavily pregnant wife, left behind to worry during the brothers' escapade, Caroline Newton has little to do except oscillate between distress and forgiveness - we know she's going to stand by her man but one can't help but wonder if she should, or what this is going to do to their relationship in the long term, and that poses more interesting questions than those posed by the main narrative.
Faulisi, who is best known as a cinematographer, sets the film in the late Eighties but chooses colours and stylistic touches from a decade earlier, an approach that seems well suited to Pike's stagnated life but doesn't always work visually, especially in the scenes shot in low light conditions. The film's biggest problem however is the pedestrian nature of the brothers' journey. Even a scene where a stranger interrupts them and is held at arrow-point - there's an absence of guns here - sees the tension vanish unconvincingly a moment later. Scenes that make more sense on reflection don't deliver enough in the meantime to serve any other purpose. Meanwhile, revelations about Pike's life fail to deliver the punch they should because they're simply too commonplace in films of this type - and whilst Jack is taking in information it doesn't really seem to change him on an emotional level, for all the performative hugs and lingering looks we're offered.
It's easy to see why the central idea here was attractive to a relatively inexperienced director who wanted to get noticed but one can't help but think that it would have been a much better film if he'd approached it later in his career. Whilst it's basically competent it lacks the depth and personality that a more experienced director might bring. What should be full of emotional ups and downs simply feels flat.Reviewed on: 30 Apr 2019