A VIOLENT SEPARATION
(director: Kevin & Michael Goetz; screenwriter: Michael Arkof; cinematographer: Sean Odea; editor: Kindra Marra; music: Evan Goldman; cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey (Frances Campbell), Brenton Thwaites (Norman Young), Ben Robson (Ray Young), Gerald McRaney (Tom Campbell). Ted Levine (Ed Quinn), Claire Holt (Abbey Campbell), Francesca Eastwood (El Camino); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Dan Clifton, Christopher Watkins, Kevin Goetz; Screen Media Films; 2019)
“B-film thriller (more a melodrama).”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brother co-directors, Kevin & Michael Goetz (“Scenic Route”/”Martyrs”), helm this B-film thriller (more a melodrama) that’s set in rural Missouri (filmed in Louisiana) in 1983. It’s scripted by Michael Arkof, who never gets more out of the story than some mild suspense.
The drunken troublemaker Ray Young (Ben Robson) has a sexually charged on and off relationship with an attractive single-parent, Abbey Campbell (Claire Holt). After a night of drinking and brawling at the roadside Whispering Pig country bar and with Ray kissing the bar maid (Francesca Eastwood) in front of Abbey, the couple leave the bar. Later that evening, the drunken Abbey, who has stolen her father’s gun, commandeers Ray in her car to take him to an isolated spot in the woods to teach her how to use the gun. When he grabs away the gun from her that she’s carelessly swinging around, the car goes over a pothole and the gun goes off accidentally killing her. Ray panics and dumps the car and her body in a different spot. He reckons since he has a bad rep in town and 2 priors, no one will believe him. He then begs his younger brother Norman (Brenton Thwaites), a deputy sheriff, just home from the service, to cover-up the incident. The gentle Norman, Ray’s opposite, reluctantly agrees because it’s family. He soon regrets what he did, feeling nervous he’ll get caught and his promising law career will end. While Ray is troubled about lying and is guilt-ridden about the murder. Norman’s afraid his boss, the wily sheriff, Ed Quinn (Ted Levine, in a wonderful film-stealing performance), who is obsessed with and is thoroughly investigating the case will sooner or later solve it and find out about the cover-up.
After the death, the sensitive Frances (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Abbey’s younger sister and the shy Norman realize they’re in love and marry over the X-mass holiday. He moves into her emphysema suffering widowed dad’s (Gerald McRaney) home with her and Abbey’s young son. When clues emerge, Frances figures out her Norman is covering up the incident and their relationship goes sour.
The film asks if loyalty to family comes before obeying the law. In this case, I had little sympathy for the guilty parties. Their actions were stupid. Just because they’re brothers is not a reason to break the law. With that in mind, it was hard to be charged up about the plot or the main characters.
REVIEWED ON 9/12/2020 GRADE: C+