Thursday 4 April 2013

Friday Nights Alone (2012)

Director: Travis Mills
Stars: Michael Hanelin, Colleen Hartnett, Jonathan Medina, Corey Busboom, Renee Anne and Wolfie

I really ought to be reviewing The Memory Ride this month for my Travis Mills review, given that it's my favourite of his films thus far and it's being screened at this year's Phoenix Film Festival, which starts tonight. It's part of the selection of films from the last year's IFP challenges, showing on Monday night, as each winner, runner up and audience favourite gets a last chance to win out as the best of the year. Awards will be presented after the screening. It's in tough company, as I've seen seven of the eight films showing and there isn't a bad one among them. Of course, one of them is the film that nudged it into second place at the 2012 Beat the Clock Challenge, UAT's excellent Screaming in Silence, though Mills won out for Best Director. The only catch is that I reviewed it in January, so I'll go for the next best option and review another Running Wild picture directed by Mills and starring Michael Hanelin and Colleen Hartnett, Friday Nights Alone.

This one isn't in the same class but it still has much to warrant a look. The Running Wild website calls it 'a police romance' but that makes it sound like a cheap Hollywood romcom, which it isn't. As the immediately whimsical tone suggests, not to mention the soft piano backing, it isn't going to work out the way our narrator wants. We are kept wondering how it will end up but the ending is as unsurprising as it is appropriate. There's one point that takes us a little by surprise, which is the point right before the knee to the groin scene, and I should emphasise that neither the knee nor the groin belong to who you might expect. While the story unfolds well enough, the action is clearly a substitute for the lack of action, if you catch my drift. As our lead characters chase and catch someone they've been waiting for, even the rise and fall in the music is there to serve as a substitute for the sex the characters aren't having. It's not really about story.
Where it really shines is the acting. Michael Hanelin seems to be in every other Running Wild film nowadays, and he does a solid job here too. He's less ambiguous than usual, at least to us, for he provides the narration as well as playing one of the two undercover cops we follow. The other is the even better Colleen Hartnett, his potential hookup in The Memory Ride and certainly the one who brings him out of his shell in that film. Here he'd like her to be his hookup, but she's married, albeit not very happily, as her husband Kevin apparently prefers to spend Friday nights talking to Maggie rather than her. She isn't invited. It would be awkward, she says. And so we watch these two detectives wait around for their target and the two actors playing them tell us what we want to know in spite of their words rather than through them. The best scene in the film has Hanelin raise a litany of concerns while Hartnett deflects them all, while clearly agreeing with every word.

Really that scene is a microcosm of the film as a whole. Very little happens in this film in the ways you might expect, but there's plenty going on behind it all that we can see in the body language and the facial movements of the characters. Some of what's said is clearly redundant, most of it isn't what's important. It would be an interesting experiment to have someone who doesn't know the English language at all watch Friday Nights Alone to see if they understand it from the visuals alone, how it all progresses outside the dialogue and narration. I have a feeling that they'd get it just as much as I did and probably enjoy it just as much to boot. It can't hurt to have Hanelin and Hartnett duelling facial expressions. I'm enjoying what I've seen of both of them thus far, not only in Running Wild films, and I'm looking forward to seeing more. I'd especially like to see them in a feature, which means The Men Who Robbed the Bank, due later this year.

Friday Nights Alone can be viewed for free on Vimeo or YouTube.

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