Is There a Good Reason to Watch A Reason ?
Review by Daniel Rester
A Reason concerns people whining about inheritance money and death for nearly its entire runtime. The results of this are a mixed bag, with some genuinely strong dramatic moments oddly blending with other soap opera-like ones. It’s one of those films where one could be cringing one moment and then actually caring for the characters the next.
Part of the unbalance of the picture may be due to it coming from first-time feature film director Dominique Schilling. The filmmaker, who also wrote the screenplay, is probably still learning her style and testing the grounds. She does show promise of directorial talent in quite a few moments, but the same can’t quite be said of her writing.
The film opens with two young adults named Nathan (Nick Eversman) and Serena (Magda Apanowicz) arriving at a huge house. The place belongs to their Aunt Irene (Marion Ross), who has gathered together family in order to read her will. There is also Chris (Ron Melendez), the kids’ half-brother, and Bianca (Madeleine Falkskog), Chris’ wife. After Irene decides to split everything between the four of them after she passes away, Nathan begins to manipulate the situation so that some people could get cut from the will. Annabelle (Roxanne Hart), Nathan and Serena’s mom, also comes into play with everything later on.
Schilling tackles quite a few ideas with the characters here, from Serena dealing with her attempted suicide to Bianca not wanting another child to Irene looking back on her past life. This attention to dealing with each character (though Chris is pretty bland) in different ways is Schilling’s strong hand in her writing, though she could go deeper with the development in certain areas. For instance, Serena is revealed to be a lesbian and just released from an institution, yet these attributes mostly feel like they are used for plot contrivance in Nathan’s plans.
Such plot handling is Schilling’s weak point in the writing. The actual plot mainly just has people talking in different rooms and backstabbing each other the majority of the time to move things along. This arguing over a will for nearly two hours leads to more tedium and melodrama than rich drama. Use of different locations, less convenience for Nathan (a one-note, annoying character), and smoother transitions of dialogue from scene to scene could have helped the material. As is, it feels like we have a few interesting characters (the females) in need of a more intriguing plot.
Schilling guides all of the technical aspects pretty well, except the music score by Kim Planert feels immensely out of place; the soundtrack is overdramatic and feels fit for a film in the thriller genre rather than in a character drama. The director should have gone with a quieter score and relied more on the actors to do their job. I find that smaller dramas like this excel further when the character nuances and other little details are just right, not when the films try to be bigger than they are by crowding scenes with swelling music.
Other than the music, the technical aspects actually shine in a few spots. Schilling and cinematographer Matthias Schubert move the camera gracefully in a number of scenes, with their subtle pushes used to great effect; a long pull-back shot near the very end is also impressive. A Reason also contains a beautiful sequence involving Bianca and a pool, though it ultimately does feel out of place and Schilling unnecessarily employs black and white at one point. Still, a lot of the camerawork and editing in the picture (especially in that scene) is smoothly orchestrated by Schilling.
The best moments from Schilling and the actors come in the form of personal, quiet conversations that have less to do with Irene’s will and more to do with regret and standing up for oneself. The director lets the actors purely rely on dialogue flow and chemistry in such moments, and these scenes involving only two characters tend to have less of Planert’s distracting music. One scene between Irene and Chris at a dining table and another between Serena and Bianca on a deck are quite moving.
All of the actresses are fairly strong throughout the film, while the actors leave less of an impact. Eversman, who is a good actor, plays Nathan like an obnoxious cartoon character – which is more of the writing’s fault than his. Meanwhile Melendez just seems a bit bored in a few scenes. Falkskog and veteran actress Ross, however, lend some emotional weight to their characters and play off of the other actors well. Apanowicz is the best thing about A Reason, however. The actress has a magnetic and bittersweet presence about her, allowing deep gazes and small facial movements to resonate more than the spoken words coming from her character.
A Reason is a right-down-the-middle drama. The cast is fitting and Apanowicz is excellent. The directing by Schilling also contains some elegant touches that show promising talent; I do want to see what Schilling comes up with next. However, the writing is just too weak on a whole and relies on melodramatic situations too often, but the music is the capper for what makes the whole thing feel uneven. A Reason isn’t something I can really recommend, but I do recommend keeping an eye on whatever Schilling and Apanowicz do next in their careers.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: C).
MPAA Rating: N/A.
Runtime: 1 hour and 52 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: N/A (on festival circuit).