Take Me To The River (2015 Sundance)

8 Apr

Ryder, our 17-year-old Californian protagonist, has just recently come to terms with the fact that he is gay. He wants to let others know too, including his mother’s conservative extended family.  “Does Grandma know I’m gay?” Ryder (Logan Miller) asks from the back of the car, en route to a family reunion. Cindy, his mother (played by Robin Weigert) is much more reserved about her son’s sexuality. Hesitant to let the cat out of the bag in front of her family she hasn’t been close with in years, Cindy tells her son to hold off on coming out until the timing is right.

Directed by Matt Sobel, Take Me To The River, aka – “The Family Reunion From Hell” delicately examines one boy’s newfound identity in the midst of exceptional circumstances. What results is an incredibly uncomfortable 85 minutes as the implications arise of being a closeted gay teen at an ultra-conservative rural Nebraska barbeque. Later, an unnamed incident involving Molly (Ursula Parker), the youngest daughter of Cindy’s temperamental brother Keith (Josh Hamilton) triggers a series of events that shake the entire family. Take Me To The River is a deeply felt and hypnotic film that overflows with anxiety and a bubbling tension. Miller is great as Ryder, the angsty and frustrated teen who rightfully rages against his family’s prejudices.  Hamilton might have the least well-written character (typical right-wing stereotypes abound) but he also gives a solid performance, though Weigert’s is the best of the bunch as the morally conflicted mother who cares for her son but who is also desperate to mend ties with her emotionally-distant family.

Shot on an ultra-low budget, Take Me To The River is Matt Sobel’s first feature, but you wouldn’t know it as the film shows a mature sense of storytelling and making hidden conflict manifest on the big screen. Premiering in Sundance Film Festival’s NEXT section (my favorite section of the fest) Sobel shows great promise as a new indie director and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Bottom Line: Take Me To The River is a surprisingly suspenseful and genuinely heartfelt coming of age film showing great promise for director Matt Sobel and newcomer Logan Miller.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Compliance (2012) + The Hunt (2013) + August, Osage County (2013) 

 

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