Thursday, January 24, 2013

THIS IS MARTIN BONNER

Martin Bonner is at crossroads in his life, and so too is Travis Holloway. Total strangers who would appear to have little in common, and are thrown together by circumstances, and who become the most unlikely friends when they find out they are not that different after all.

Martin is in his mid 50s and has moved across the country to start a new job and a new life in Reno, Nevada. Once he got divorced, the Church who employed him as their Business Manager promptly fired him. Two years on, he is unemployed and broke and so took the only job he could get working as Volunteer Co-ordinator for a Charity that helps prisoners transition into life on the outside once their sentence is served.

Travis is being released from jail after serving 12 years for a fatal drunk driving incident.  Alone and scared but determined to go straight, he works hard at adjusting to his new liberty and trying to find a purpose to his life.  The mentor that the Charity have assigned to him, is holier than thou (even Mother Therese would find him too much) so Travis seeks out Martin, who had given him a ride the day of his release, to replace him.

Both men are depressed and lonely, and neither of them have a single friend  Martin lives in a tiny bare condo and supplants his income by buying inexpensive antiques and reselling them on EBay. His adult son back in Maryland never returns his calls, but his married daughter does, and worries about her father being so alone that she signs him up for Online Dating which ends in disaster.   

Travis's only family is a 22 year old daughter who he is estranged from, but he persuades her to make the long bus trip to come visit. He tricks Martin into joining them as he is so petrified that the re-union will end in tears .... as it nearly does ..... and in one of the best scenes in the movie, Martin steps in to help to turn it around and restore an uneasy peace.

When Martin shares about his crisis of losing his faith, Travis  opens up with the back story of how he came to end up in prison in the first place and you realize that their roles have changed.  It's no longer mentor and client as they now offer reciprocal support to each other so that they can both move forward.

This movie about two middle-aged men has a very mature feel about it which is such a welcome change from the usual showy melodramas that old cons usually feature in.  It's a sensitive and somewhat understated story, beautifully written, and made so enjoyable by the two central performances.  Veteran Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn plays Martin and gives him a quiet aura of confidence of a man who is more than content with his new life, and Richmond Arquette (yep another Arquette) is pitch perfect as the awkward Travis who really wants to turn his life around.

A really excellent second feature from writer/director Chad Hartigan .... it's a perfect example of how first-rate an indie narrative can be even when it was made on the minutest of budgets (not that you can tell)  .... and I hope it gets the audience it so deserves.