noir

Blood on Her Name

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After an accidental death, a woman decides to dispose of the body instead of going to the police. The guilt begins to eat away at her. As she continues to make rash decisions, the life she has built for herself and her son crumbles around her.

Director/writer Matthew Pope and co-writer Don M. Thompson both make their feature-film debut with Blood on Her Name. The film opens in the seconds after the accidental murder. We are immediately introduced to Leigh, the owner of the auto garage where the murder happened. As the shock wears off, we see Leigh make the unfortunate decision to clean up and hide the body instead of calling the police. We don’t know why this murdered happened, who the man is, or why she decides to get rid of the body. The answers to the many mysteries behind the man’s death are revealed slowly and methodically, making each revelation more surprisingly than the last. The film also shows how each decision Leigh makes, while dripping with good intentions, ultimately makes her situation more and more dire. For the most part this method of storytelling will hold the interest of audiences and delivers a fascinating mystery, yet there are some areas where the pace seems to drag a bit.

The filmmakers make an interesting decision to never actually show the murder. While gore lovers will likely be disappointed by this, I think it helps to set up Leigh as an unreliable storyteller. We see everything from her point of view. By not showing the murder itself we are forced to believe her ever changing story of events. This also makes the trickle of truths all the more shocking.

Blood on Her Name is carried by strong performances from a talented cast. Bethany Anne Lind (Doom Patrol, Ozark) stars as Leigh. This woman is hardworking and cares deeply for her son. Not only does Lind perfectly convey the turmoil Leigh goes through after the murder, but she shows how this character tries so hard to escape the legacy of her father and ex-husband. Will Patton (Swamp Thing, Halloween) delivers a strong performance as Leigh’s father, Richard. Richard is a local cop, but he clearly isn’t the cleanest man in law enforcement. Lind and Patton play off of each other very well, especially in the more tense conversations. We watch a daughter who would rather avoid communicating with her father forced to seek out his help, and a father who wants to solve his daughter’s problems in ways she doesn’t agree with. It creates a very tense dynamic between the two characters, and it makes watching Leigh’s attempt to break the cycle she’s known her entire life even more compelling.

The film has a griminess to it that compliments both the plot and setting. Colors are dull and lack vibrancy, and everything looks dirty. It matches the rural setting and the lives the characters lead in Blood on Her Name. This relatively monochromatic look also appears to further Leigh’s POV. To her, the world she lives in is grey and unhappy, so it makes sense the film would fit in with her POV.

Blood on Her Name is a compelling noir thriller from the point of view of an unreliable protagonist. Lind plays Leigh perfectly as we follow her story and try to determine what really happened and why she makes the choices she does. While the film has a tendency to meander a bit, there is still a definite storytelling skill that shows promise for both Pope and Thompson. Blood on Her Name is a great first feature film that will make critics and audiences take note of these filmmakers and what they do in the future.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

The Fare

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A taxi driver finds himself on a remote road at night to pick up a fare. A mysterious woman ends up in his cab, but before they reach their destination she vanishes. Unbeknownst to the taxi driver, he will meet the woman again as soon as he switches the meter back to vacant.

D.C. Hamilton (The Midnight Man) brings audiences his sophomore film as the director of The Fare. Written by Brinna Kelly (The Midnight Man), who also stars in the film, The Fare tells the story of a taxi driver named Harris. When he is sent out to the remote location at night to pick up a fare, he half expects it to be a prank call. That is until he finds a beautiful and mysterious woman named Penny there waiting for him. They have normal polite conversation until they approach an oncoming storm, then the woman suddenly vanishes. Harris, confused, resets his meter back to vacant and ends up right back where he started. The only problem is, he doesn’t seem to know he’s been reset. The audience watches as Harris and Penny go through the same time loop, that is until Harris finally starts to remember.

The entire premise of The Fare is far more interesting and unique than I expected. In the past few years there have been a number of time-loop films. Each one has its own distinctive flare and reasons for the time loop. This film manages to stand out from the crowd by delivering a compelling story and an unexpected reason for Harris and Penny being stuck in that loop. The filmmakers do a fantastic job of keeping the audience guessing. At times the film hints at aliens, gods, and other potential reasons. The truth is revealed in layers, only divulging small pieces of the puzzle at a time and ultimately making the big reveal incredibly satisfying. More importantly, it makes sense! Often times the plots of time-loop films can get convoluted, but The Fare delivers something audiences will understand and enjoy.

When you strip The Fare down to its core, it is much more of a love story than it is a time-loop film. Once Harris becomes aware of his situation and remembers more, we see his relationship with Penny grow. It’s especially interesting to watch because they are at such different stages of coming to terms with their situation. Penny’s memory goes much further back, so she’s already gone through the various stages of grief such as anger and bargaining, but she’s now accepted her situation. Since Harris is starting from the beginning, he has a harder time coming to terms with his situation. Yet it all brings them closer together, which only strengthens Harris’s quest to escape the loop with Penny and find the truth.

Both leads in The Fare deliver great performances. Gino Anthony Pesi (Shades of Blue, Battle Los Angeles) stars as Harris the taxi driver. While more handsome than people might expect of a stereotypical taxi driver, Pesi still fits the role well. There is a roughness to him, but he is still a very personable individual. What I especially enjoy about Pesi and his portrayal of Harris is his gradual change. Throughout his character arc, the audience sees Harris go through a wide range of emotions. When Harris and Penny become closer, Pesi even conveys a soft and caring side that is unexpected. Writer Brinna Kelly stars as Penny. Kelly brings a certain amount of poise and elegance to Penny that is very fitting for the character. Yet it’s when her barriers are broken down and her affection for Harris grows that Kelly really creates memorable moments for Penny. Pesi and Kelly have great on-screen chemistry throughout the film and will hold the attention of audiences.

Overall, the look and feel of the film reminds me a lot of an episode of The Twilight Zone and old noir films. At first, The Fare is in black and white. As Harris’s memory comes back, more and more of the film is in color. It creates a great visual cue for the audience to designate when Harris knows he is in the loop or not. The filmmakers also wisely chose to have the film set almost entirely within the taxi. Not only does this create a very intimate setting for the two leads, but it also allows for a lot of possibilities when it comes to the “why” behind the time loop. This decision likely gave the filmmakers the opportunity to spend the budget in more valuable areas instead of building elaborate sets or paying to use various locations.

The Fare is an unexpected gem that delivers something new to the time-loop subgenre of film. Hamilton and Kelly prove to be an effective filmmaking duo as they take audiences on a journey that goes to strange new places. Kelly also shows her acting prowess along with Pesi. Both actors deliver stunning performances and create dynamic characters. My only truly negative criticism of The Fare is at times the small budget is quite apparent. Yet the plot is novel enough and creates a mythos that is sure to bewitch audiences.

OVERLL RATING: 8.5/10