REEL NEW MEXICO, for THURSDAY, JULY 14th- 7 PM
AROUND THE BEND (2004, 85 minutes, mostly shot in northern New Mexico)
Michael Caine and Christopher Walken breathe spirited life into debut writer/director Jordan Roberts’s road trip of family bonding in this independent movie with a big heart. The 85-year-old Henry Lair (Caine) lives in Los Angeles with his 32-year-old grandson Jason (Josh Lucas) and 6-year-old great grandson Zach (Jonah Bobo). Jason’s long lost father Turner (Walken) unexpectedly materializes for the first time in 30 years. Turner’s sudden appearance is especially surprising to Zach who has always been told that his outlaw grandfather is deceased. The four generations of men do soon drop in number however when the ailing Henry dies, immediately after writing his final requests on post-its in the comfort of a local Kentucky Fried Chicken. Henry’s circuitous instructions send his three male descendants on family history soul-searching road trip from Los Angeles to Albuquerque that culminates in a cathartic admission by Walken’s character that marks one of the actor’s finer cinematic moments. “Around The Bend” may be a “small” movie, but it’s better than Hollywood’s average dramatic fare.
The subject of estranged fathers is a recurring theme in American movies. “Around The Bend” goes a long way toward articulating the destructive nature of such abandonment within a comic narrative structure. Jason is a banker with a limp who has recently separated from his wife. He cares for the couple’s even-tempered son Zach with a fierce loyalty that springs from the resentment he harbors against his own absent father. Jason’s live-in grandfather Henry serves as a perfectly eccentric guiding force for Jason and Zach. Michael Caine brings a complex degree of domestic intimacy to Henry’s character that denotes the emotional core of the story–even after he passes away–through his spontaneously written instructions. An extra zip of comic energy comes from Henry’s live-in-sex-pot Danish nurse Katrina (Glenn Headly) who provides brief intimate council to Turner as she watches slasher movies on television.
“Around The Bend” is a deceptively simple film in which director Roberts seamlessly transfers the essential grains of emotional logic that Jason misses, from his father’s exhibitionist behavior, to the guileless Zach when the little boy dances like his grandfather on a giant rock in New Mexico at sunset. The sequence is unpredictably touching and makes you feel a kind of paternal bliss that no amount of description can do justice. It eloquently speaks to the attributes of emotional closure as containing a necessary aspect of hope. There’s nothing general about that.
Suggested donation for REEL NEW MEXICO is $5…you are welcome to bring food and drink into the performance space thanks to our great neighbors at La Plancha.