As we slowly turn the corner into the spring and summer seasons, we inch closer to the tentpole blockbusters we’ve come to expect. Many of these films are already plastering ad campaigns across the city, from billboards to high-rise buildings, covering the landscape in a myriad of dazzling teasers. But don’t fret, there are still character driven movies to entertain before the onslaught of the coming months.
First time writer/director Shana Feste brings her emotionally filled film, The Greatest, to the big screen in limited release after being awarded recognition on the festival circuit. The debut for the filmmaker focuses on a grief stricken family as they attempt to process the loss of their son, Bennett (Aaron Johnson) after a fatal car crash. Beyond trying to pick up the pieces after the tragedy, each family member is left to deal with their own personal issues. If this wasn’t enough to manage, a few months after the incident, there is a knock on the door from a girl claiming to be pregnant with Bennett’s child. There are no twists in this story, although with a plotline like this it would make for great daytime soap drama.
Rose (Carey Mulligan) appears at the Brewer’s doorstep in desperation, as she has nowhere else to turn and feels the family should know about her and Bennett. Rose and Bennett share a brief, but intensely romantic connection that whispers at a lifetime of happiness before the tragic accident. Even though she is a bright and delightful young woman trying to deal with her situation, Bennett’s mother, Grace (Susan Sarandon), blames Rose for the accident, as the two teens were together the night of the car crash. On the other hand, Allen (Pierce Brosnan), Bennett’s father, embraces Rose as a replacement to his loss. Bennett’s brother, Ryan (Johnny Simmons), accepts Rose, but has warped his perceptions with substance abuse. As each family member copes with their issues, Rose becomes a center for their grief and at the same time possibly a missing piece in their lives.
The Greatest could definitely play out like a Lifetime movie, but with well-written scenes and great character performances, the film just barely toes the line. Each actor brings a naturalistic and unreserved style to the film and it helps smooth over what could have been a disastrous overall experience. It is an interesting story that forces the viewer to feel the pain and grief of the characters, but the film overall doesn’t connect the dots. Although well performed and strikingly realistic, it seems a little disjointed as a whole.
Not only is this another vehicle for Mulligan’s acting chops, it also highlights the skill of both Sarandon and Brosnan to steal a scene with subtle nuances. The acting is fantastic and that is due in part to debut writer/director Feste to steer the film in the direction she envisioned. If it weren’t for these combinations of dedication to their craft, a pretty decent drama could have gone horribly wrong.
Mirror Film Criticmark@smmirror.com