Stars: Casey Likes and Cara Alvey
|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2015. Here's an index to my reviews of 2015 films.|
Casey Likes plays Carpenter, a thirteen year old kid who's unhappy that his family won't be able to go to California this year on holiday. Sure, he cares for his little sister, Charlie, who's in hospital for a reason we aren't let in on but which we assume is serious. However, he comes across as the usual petulant youth as he pouts at the lack of holiday. He doesn't stamp his foot when he shouts, 'That's not fair!', but that's only because Joshua J Provost, the writer and director, didn't want to be quite that stereotypical. Life sucks for young Carpenter but it's clearly not as simple as him being selfish. There's a great line early on when his mum suggests that he go see Charlie: 'I don't like to see her like that,' he says, highlighting that he cares but can't give voice to his feelings in terms that his mother would understand. So, when he packs for the road, we know it isn't as simple as just running away from home. The rest of the story fills in the gaps, as he takes a journey whose meaning is eventually made clear through a fantastic and touching plot device.
In many ways, it's an ethereal piece that often slips away from dialogue into a jangly score as Carpenter makes it further down the road. Provost does drop some hints early on, but then it's just the highway; we do know where he's going, because it doesn't take any knowledge of the road to grasp that, but we don't quite know why and we have to wait it out with Carpenter before Provost opens it up and brings it home. Given that the wait constitutes the majority of the film, which Carpenter either makes it through alone or shares with people we don't see, the technical side of the picture is often in focus. I enjoyed some of the camerawork, like the shadowplay on the bridge, but found some shots too handheld for my liking. The impressive choice of locations is strung together capably by editing, but it's Likes who always keeps us going, the determination on his face only occasionally lost to a fear that he's doing the wrong thing. I bet Provost had the same looks over nine years, but Thrasherland is definitely the right end to his journey.