Welcome To Pine Hill


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Welcome To Pine Hill
"Harper's strong, understated performance brings dignity and humour to the role."

One night in New York City, a former drug dealer and a filmmaker got into an argument about a dog. We see it played out at the beginning of this film, which blurs the line between fact and fiction throughout. Trying to explain how the situation developed as it did, the first man, Shannon (Shanon Harper) tells the second that he lives in a very different NYC. The latter is intrigued. Where there might have been conflict, friendship develops. Out of this real life friendship came a story that explores aspects of Harper's real life and questions the choices people make.

Shannon has terminal stomach cancer. He could live for another few months, the doctor tells him, if he had health insurance. Presumably be might buy time even now, but Shannon has other priorities. In the time remaining to him, he quietly sets about paying off his debts to other people. His mother, his friends, a drug dealer. It doesn't matter who they are. He wants to leave things as they should be.

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As he goes through this process, there is one other thing that sets Shannon apart: his secrecy. A naturally private person, he tells no-one about his illness. This leads to confrontations with friends confused by his sometimes odd behaviour, but it frees him from the weight of other people's sympathy and it gives him the space to develop his own narrative. He doesn't have to go through the pre-packaged route of hospices and flowers and the obligation to soothe others' distress. He can simply do what is important to him - live life whilst it's there, then disappear.

It's a simply concept that sets this film apart in a wider context where too many stories about illness forget those involved are people. Harper's strong, understated performance brings dignity and humour to the role. He is - both in real life and in fiction - a man who has successfully broken out of set narratives before, by giving up drugs. Here he also breaks with audience expectations of a young black character in downtown NYC, reminding us of all the other stories that filmmakers too often pass by.

The film isn't a complete success. The quality of supporting performances varies and the direction is often rather flat, but this allows Harper more room to shine. It's a thoughtful picture that will do what most similarly themed films aim for but fall short of - getting its audience to look at the wold in a new way.

Reviewed on: 07 Dec 2013
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Welcome To Pine Hill packshot
A man facing terminal illness is determined to live and die on his own terms.

Director: Keith Miller

Writer: Keith Miller

Starring: Shanon Harper, Jaiden Kaine, Keith Miller, Junior Adolph, Mark Anthony Hackett, Ernest Bastien

Year: 2012

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: US


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