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Adrian International Film Festival Review: 'BORN RIVER BYE'

Courtesy of AIFF


They are some good intentions in “Born River Bye,” a new drama from writer/director Tim Hall, that never go anywhere. But for me to talk about the film, I must first try to explain it. The synopsis tells us it takes place in a “sleepy town” which, I suppose it does, although it feels somewhat lively by comparison. Cut to Scott who is just rolling into town as a struggling musician to reflect on his career and reunites with his high school friend Laura, who is also unhappy with her life (you’d think she would be gone by now?)

Somehow or another, timing works out in their favor and the pair begin to self-reflect and find a new sense of purpose over the course of one weekend. You can see “Born River Bye” is trying to be an angsty coming of age story (in the same vein as, let's say, “Garden State”) and instead comes across as moopy, dreery and a sluggishly boring venture that doesn’t have any real conflict.

Lead actors Dustin Gooch and Ashlee Heath are fine performers who do the best with the material, but Hall just throws them in motion as dispensable characters that never feel like true friends. Not to mention all the subplots surrounding this thing feels like a giant soap opera (don’t even get me started on “Chip” - Laura’s walking cliche of a boyfriend that mine as well have “dirtbag” plastered on his forehead). You’ve got the stereotypical big sister that almost wants nothing to do with her lowlife brother, Laura’s parents think marrying Chip is the smart move (her mom even has a blog post about it!) and both are facing problems millions of others deal with, yet Hall’s script never makes me care about any of them.

The only surprise the film offers is that it’s not just another love story between Scott and Laura, they are just friends and that’s it. But judging by their brief interactions, you’d never get the feeling either of them have actually spoken a word to each other. Maybe if the film had spent more time on rekindling their relationship (that’s what I thought was going to happen) and not long master shots of people walking than “Bye” could’ve been something.

I’m not kidding about the walking either. “Born River Bye” is precisely 85 minutes in length and I’d wager that 30 minutes of it features Scott walking off into the distance, which wouldn’t be complete without a hip indie soundtrack so it can earn its stripes. It’s painful to watch because Hall just leaves the camera rolling for long stretches of time (was he trying to meet a certain length requirement? I never understood the need for it). Ultimately, the film is just too inconsistent and never builds to a resolution, I remember a few audience members asking “That’s it?” after its initial screening. They turned to me for an answer, I didn’t have one.   

So clearly “Born River Bye” wasn’t for me. Then again, I’m having a tough time gauging just exactly who this movie is for. I know it means well, and I don’t think Hall is a bad director, there are some good shots that seem to offer the possibility of a promising filmmaker. In time he’ll find the right vehicle that fits his needs, but “Born River Bye,” for the moment, is not that movie.

Grade: D+

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