ANGELS CREST (director: Gaby Dellal; screenwriters: from the novel by Leslie Schwartz/Catherine Trieschmann; cinematographer: David Johnson; editors: Giles Bury/Mick Audsley; music: Stephen Warbeck; cast: Thomas Dekker (Ethan), Elizabeth McGovern (Jane), Jeremy Piven (Jack Kraft, D.A.), Lynn Collins (Cindy), Joseph Morgan (Rusty), Mira Sorvino (Angie), Kate Walsh (Roxanne), Rachel Clentworth (Melody), Ameko Eks Mass Carroll (Nate), Chris Ippolito (Will), Greg Lawson (Bill), Julian Domingues (George), Emma Macgillivray (Rosie), Colin A. Campbell(Paul), Barbara Williams (Cindy’s Mother); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Leslie Cowan/Shirley Vercruysse; Magnolia Pictures; 2011-Canada/UK)

“The main story remains intriguing even if it never becomes profound.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gaby Dellal (“On a Clear Day“) directs this at times gripping drama, set in the Rocky Mountainsmall working-class town of Angels Crest. It’s based onthe novel by Leslie Schwartz and is written by Catherine Trieschmann.

Ethan (Thomas Dekker) is the young twenty-something doting but irresponsible father of the cute three-year-old Nate (Ameko Eks Mass Carroll ). He’s estranged from his alcoholic waitress wife Cindy (Lynn Collins), who has given him custody of the boy. One snowy morning Ethan takes his playful son in his pickup truck out to the woods so they can watch the snow fall in the beautiful mountains. Nate falls asleep, and when the childlike Ethan sees a deer he leaves the heat on, locks the door, and leaves the kid buckled up in the truck while he goes to track the deer. Returning some twenty minutes later, Ethan finds his son missing. The next morning Nate finds his son frozen to death, about a quarter of a mile away from the truck, and is filled with grief and guilt over his thoughtless act. The locals in this close-knit community are willing to forgive him and call it an unfortunate accident, but the D.A., Jack Kraft (Jeremy Piven), haunted by the loss of his son, prosecutes the heart-broken Ethan for negligent homicide. The only local who agrees with that decision, is the embittered Cindy.

After a moving setup and depicting good small town atmosphere of the locals hanging together after a tragedy, the film flags when it goes off on too many unresolved subplots involving the personal problems of the townies. Too much filler time was used on subplots that went nowhere trying desperately to make a point about good parenting. There was the heavy-handed depiction of the lesbian relationship between the ultra-sweet diner waitress Jane (Elizabeth McGovern) and the more forward artist Roxanne (Kate Walsh). One scene shows the visit of Jane’s hostile young adult son (Julian Domingues) and pregnant girlfriend ( Rachel Clentworth), and how Jane gave him money despite his bad attitude. It’s pointed out he was raised by Jane’s ex. Another subplot over the vengeful DA’s actions, coming to Angels Cross and trying desperately to get the locals to bad mouth Ethan was a subplot that was awkwardly handled. It was murky because we never know the back story of why the one-dimensional DA is such an angry man and biased prosecutor, and his overwrought characterization sticks out as misplaced in comparison to the more naturalistic performances of most of the locals. Mira Sorvino plays the goodhearted diner owner Angie, a single parent of two girls who is given an inconsequential part for an actress with her rep. The filmmaker was trying to say something about Angie’s responsible parenting, but since her character was so undeveloped nothing revealing could be said that mattered.

But despite these setbacks in the narrative, the main story remains intriguing even if it never becomes profound or fails to bring us any closer to understanding how to deal with grief. Dellal had a good narrative in place, but lets it slip out of focus with diverting but unimportant side stories.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2011 GRADE: B-