Union Bridge (2019) | Directed by Brian Levin
Written by Brian Levin | Starring Scott Friend, Emma Duncan, Alex Breaux
After a somewhat confusing opening featuring a brutal beating in a night-time field and some navel gazing, this film finally settles on its focus – the down-on-his-luck prodigal son Will (Scott Friend). Despite his best efforts, he is back in small town life after flaming out in the big city; a somewhat humiliating return that results in him skulking about town attempting to avoid inevitable re-connections with those folk who knew him before.
His old friend Nick (Alex Breaux) seems to have fallen on hard times and now is given to wandering around the town dirty and troubled; apparently his mother is a “dope fiend” now and they are desperately poor. Deciding to catch up with him, Will heads to his home only to be told that Nick’s with his cousin Mary down by the river. When he gets there, he’s confronted by groups of women praying at the water, his old flame Mary (Emma Duncan) amongst them.
When Wil finally speaks to Nick he’s alarmed to be told of the visions his friend has suffered that summer; “there’s something buried in the fields” Nick says urgently, haunted and obsessed. Flashbacks inform us of the towns chequered past, confederate soldiers, violence, and the possibility of gold in them there hills!
There is still good chemistry between Will and expository Mary so it surprises no one when they decide to start dating again, much to Will’s mothers disapproval. In all honesty it seems like there’s not much mother does approve of when it comes to Will – not his friends, not his relationship, not his career choices and certainly not in anyway encouraging Nick’s digging in the fields. Maybe mother has a secret or two related to whatever is buried out there.
Professionally lensed by cinematographer Sebastian Slayter with a dark gothic-southern charm, Union Bridge is populated with authentic-looking folk that manage to pull off even the most far fetched of scenarios precisely because they are all so relatable and real; it’s a shame then that they aren’t more fleshed out as characters, as they are mostly cyphers for the story and lack depth. It is well acted by all, with Elisabeth Noone as mother Jeanie, a stand out.
Moody and slower than molasses, with a lovely strings-heavy soundtrack it has a rich sense of place and tone, but unfortunately by the time the denouement rolled around I had long stopped caring and it certainly didn’t clear up a lot of the questions that I had anyway.
This is a beautiful blunder, with writer/director Brian Levin like a cook who had all the ingredients for an amazing cake but somehow it just didn’t rise. So many solid elements but unfortunately an exercise in tedium. With his good eye and strong voice, fingers are crossed that the next film for Levin is better.