Two films in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival bring us stories of people who make a tragic mistake, followed by an exploration of how those single moments in time affect their lives and the lives of the people around them.
In the Irish indie, “What Richard Did,” the teenage character’s mistake is a moment of drunken violence, while in “Bluebird,” the character is a middle-aged woman who becomes distracted and neglects an important daily step in her job as a school bus driver.
Both characters are essentially good people, and it isn’t difficult to identify with them. As a result, the films are sobering, as they show how easy it is – in a split second – to change your life forever with one unthinking action.
Several of the stars of “Bluebird” turned out for the festival’s red carpet premiere of the film. Unfortunately, John Slattery of “Mad Men” was unable to attend. He gives an excellent performance in the film, but the movie mostly belongs to Amy Morton of TV’s “Boss” and young actress Louisa Krause.
Morton turns in an Oscar-worthy performance in a film that, sadly, is unlikely to get attention from such big awards. Krause was a surprise to me after seeing her on the red carpet the night before. She was lovely and bubbly as herself. As Marla in “Bluebird,” she’s a lost young woman who is trying to escape from the responsibilities of life.
It’s easy to understand why veteran actors chose to work in “Bluebird,” Lance Edmands’ debut feature film. Despite the indie salaries, they must have jumped at the chance to play the meaty roles he created in his screenplay. Margo Martindale also appears in the film as Marla’s mother. (See my interview with her.)
Prior to “Bluebird,” Edmands wrote and directed one short film and has worked as a post-production assistant on “The Wire.” Despite any apparent inexperience, he has created a solid narrative with an intelligent series of shots in between scenes that show us place, climate (which is almost a character in and of itself in this film), and mood. If you like dramatic films, I highly recommend it.
“What Richard Did” is also dramatic, although slightly less so. Set in Ireland, the movie takes us into the world of 18-year-old Richard, who is a normal boy going to school and parties. The turn of events that leads to tragedy begins, as you might suspect, with a girl and a love triangle.
The success or failure of “What Richard Did” falls squarely on the shoulders of young Irish actor Jack Reynor, and he carries it well. There are moments when the director provides close-ups of Reynor without dialogue, and we can see his mind trying to make sense of what has happened in his life.
All of the actors do a fine job in this compelling film, but I’ll make a particular call-out to Lars Mikkelsen, who plays Richard’s father. Mikkelsen is not Irish, however; he’s Danish and the brother of Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Hannibal Lecter in the new NBC-TV series, “Hannibal.” (Read my interview with “Hannibal” creator Bryan Fuller)
The movie is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Malcolm Campbell and Kevin Power, based on Power’s novel, “Bad Day at Blackrock.” There are moments when “What Richard Did” would benefit from subtitles, however, for an American audience.
Neither of these films are “big” movies at the Tribeca Film Festival, and you won’t get “tied up with a bow” endings in these. But for those who like indie dramas, they are both well worth the time.
Visit the Tribeca Film Festival website for the screening schedule, and check out the trailer for “What Richard Did” below. (There doesn’t appear to be a trailer for “Bluebird” yet, but watch for it.)