Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
One of the last films to get released before 2012 gets underway is a small, carefully crafted feature from director Gaby Dellal, Angels Crest. And while the saying ‘save the best for last’ isn’t entirely accurate, this year has been so up and down (but mostly down) that when the credits rolled, I was instantly grateful to have seen such an intimate and poignant production.
Set near the Rocky Mountains in a small town named Angels Crest (what a coincidence!), the film begins with a father (Thomas Dekker) taking his 3-year-old son out one cold, snowy day into the woods. Leaving him asleep in the truck to track a deer, he returns to find an empty vehicle and the wheels are set in motion for the entire town to be turned upside down.
Sounds like a laugh riot, right? Wait, if you said yes to that I suggest professional help. Obviously, this film is a bit on the somber side. However, instead of just being dour and melancholy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), watching the community cope with tragedy and decide how to assign blame or show compassion is truly moving and sincere.
The acting all around is excellent, with two key highlights. First, there’s Jeremy Piven who plays the district attorney compiling a case against Dekker. Better know for his comedic work, there a profound sadness to his character always hovering overhead like a storm cloud. It’s perhaps his best work (PCU notwithstanding). Then there’s Lynn Collins, who plays the boy’s mother. Her character is deeply flawed, practically broken, and yet Collins finds a way to not only make the anger and sadness come through but also the possibility of redemption. It’s one of the better supporting actress performances of the year.
Another element working in the film’s favor is that this isn’t a myopic point of view centered on the parents alone. We get to know a bit about the circle of people around Dekker and Collins, thereby getting a better sense of the community – creating a stronger impact of the ripples that emanate from the boy’s disappearance. Dellal’s direction and a nicely laid out script by Catherine Trieschmann pare down events to what we need to know, working from the novel by Leslie Schwartz. While the book is usually better than the resulting film, it didn’t feel like the audience was being shortchanged too much on any particular characters. Often, it’s easy to spot that there’s a gap in back story in order to make for a reasonable runtime; here, the amount of info given about everyone seems just right.
Obviously, if you’re the type of person who loves car chases, explosions, and Adam Sandler, this isn’t the movie for you. For everyone else, Angels Crest is a thoughtful, heartfelt exploration of loss. It’s one of the hidden gems of 2011 and will hopefully earn the recognition it deserves.
Angels Crest hits theaters in limited release on December 30, 2011 and is rated R for language and some sexual content.