Monday 16 December 2013

Your Turn to Smile (2013)

Director: Luis Prado III
Stars: Ross Columbia, Jaime Gaeta and Dede Denman
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
Another winner at the Mystery Box challenge, Your Turn to Smile took the award for Best Story, though there's not much of one to be found. It follows a young man called David who's clearly hurting from the recent loss of his younger sister, Tracy. He can only look backward, such as at a dry Arizona river that had water in it yesterday, because that's the only way he can see her. The story, which was written by the actor who plays David, Ross Columbia, has him take the initial step to come to terms with his loss through a neat little prop passed on to him by a friend and co-worker. It's a smile jar, made for him by his sister which could so easily have been irredeemably saccharine but plays well here with David's realistic reactions to it. The idea is simple, as are Tracy's instructions: he should read one of the notes in the jar each time he's sad. Of course he's sad rather a lot right now, but there are notes enough for each occasion. We're not told how many he goes through but it's enough that he starts to move on.

Columbia is good here, though it's a tough role that calls on him to look miserable for most of the film and yet remain sympathetic. Much of his pain is internal, clearly there but not always thrown out so we can't fail to notice it. Like the idea at the heart of the film, his portrayal could easily have ended up as painful as the loss his character is channelling, but it turns out pretty well. Unfortunately the rest of those involved aren't up to his standard; the sound is frequently lost in the wind and the visuals are occasionally lost in the sun. Dede Denman may have been good too, as the co-worker who delivers the smile jar, but she loses her fight with the technical issues. The music by Joshua Vern is decent, but not unexpected. The script, its win notwithstanding, is vague enough to work through impressions but not strong enough to carry much weight. At least the ending, always crucial in an emotional story, is done capably, simply but effectively, with impact but not much, all rather like the movie itself.

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