Friday, October 18, 2013
Chicago International Film Festival - "The Harvest"
There are certain movies you just have to see. Maybe the cinematography is breathtaking or there's a bravura performance by a performer that will move you. Perhaps the music is unforgettable or the overall film is a great technical achievement.
Then there's a film such as The Harvest, the latest work from John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Mad Dog and Glory). You have to see this film if only because you may not believe what you're seeing on the screen - and I mean that with great praise. This is one of the most bizarre stories I've ever seen and it's handled with great assuredness by McNaughton, who takes us on one wild ride. How else to describe a modern day horror/love story?
I can't even begin to describe what happens in this film and I certainly wouldn't want to give much away, so the little I can tell you about the plot deals with a young boy of about 12 years old named Andy (Charlie Tahan), who has a physical condition that has left him very weak (basically, he can't walk more than a few feet) and is limited to his bedroom, except when he joins his parents for dinner, as he maneuvers his wheelchair to the kitchen.
He lives in an isolated countryside setting along with his parents, Katherine, a medical doctor (Samantha Morton) and Richard, a registered nurse (Michael Shannon). They are his life support team and do what is necessary to improve the boy's condition.
One day, a young girl named Maryann (Natasha Calis), who is about the same age as Andy, moves into a house not far away. She is cared for by her grandparents, as her father recently passed away. As she is in a new place, she is understandably forlorn, as she misses her old friends.
One day, she sets out for a walk and finds the house where Andy is living. She sees him in his bed and Andy lets her in through the window, as he is both curious and in need of a friend his age. However, once Katherine discovers this, she clearly doesn't approve of Maryann being around and tells her so in no uncertain terms.
Why she doesn't approve is the basis of the story and as I said, I won't spoil anything in this review. The plot takes several turns, all the while pitting Katherine's strong will against the wishes of Maryann and her son to become friends.
There's a bit of dark humor here and there, but this is definitely not a comedy. McNaughton takes the material and finds all sort of oblique angles here and there, all the while keeping the action flowing. This may be a slightly offbeat story (OK, more than slightly), but it's a pleasure to watch the director at work here, teasing us with a shot of an open doorway or window that may or may not lead to safety.
What most people will be talking about after they see this film (apart from the plot) is the performance of Samantha Morton. There will be some that will say she is over the top, but I think she is wonderful in the role of a woman who slowly has been losing her sense of reality for some time. You can't take your eyes off of her in this film, that's for sure!
I'd love to write more about this film, but I don't want to reveal its secrets. Go see it - you won't forget The Harvest anytime soon! I loved the film, and while I am certain there will be some that think this is a bit absurd, I'm betting a lot of people will be discussing this work for quite some time - and in a positive way. John McNaughton, welcome back!