(director/writer: Daniel Kremer; screenwriters: novel Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker by Charles Brockden Brown/Alexander Hero/Aaron Hollander/story by Kremer; cinematographer: Aaron Hollander; editor: Charles Thackeray; music: Costas Dafnis; cast: Alexander Hero (Edgar “Eddie” Huntly), Catherine Lerza (Maggie), Raul Delarosa (Carmine Clithero), Nima Stone (Thea Selky), Tiziana Perinotti (Daria), William Cully Allen (Ambrose), Penny Werner (Roz “Gabby” Blarnfeld), Randal Zielinski (Charlie Huntly), Kris Caltagirone (Dean van Putty), Alanna Blair (Faye Huntly, Edgar’s sister), Ravi Valleti (Vik Ghatak), Daniel da Silva (Aimes), Diane Barnes (Mab), Rhonda Elbart (Leoni), Amy Larsen (Andrea the Realtor), Audrey Levan (Aysel, radio guest), Sharmin Sehat (Tooba); Runtime: 170; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Daniel Kremer; Confluence-Film; 2018-USA-in English, Navajo & Persian-in B/W)

“It’s challenging as a murder mystery story and engrossing as a psychological character study.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The low-budget, exotic, unique, indie, enigmatic, experimental, murder mystery is directed as a labor of love by Daniel Kremer (“Sophisticated Acquaintance”/”Raise Your Kids on Seltzer”) and is written by him, Alexander Hero and Aaron Hollander. It’s based on an early book published in America in 1799, entitled Edgar Huntly, Or Memories Of A Sleepwalker by Charles Brockden Brown. It changes the locale from Philadelphia to San Francisco, and offers a loose translation of the book as it updates it to modern times. The ambitious project is shot in a gorgeous black-and-white (giving it a stultifying atmospheric neo-noir look), and is released in a classic roadshow format (used in the 1950’s and 60’s to present epic-length blockbusters -think Spartacus- and lavish musicals with overtures and intermissions). It has a hefty running time of 170 minutes. That seemed too long for me, nevertheless the editing was first-rate in regards to its pacing and it had enough twists going on to hold my attention for the entire film.

Edgar “Eddie” Huntly (Alexander Hero) is a ‘Talk is Cheap’ radio host from the East Coast who moves to San Francisco to be with his fiancée, Thea (Nima Slone). A work arrangement is made for Eddie to replace his world-weary, seeker of solace, friend Dean van Putty (Kris Caltagirone) of his late-night talk-radio show. While Eddie arrives in San Francisco he stays with his kindly Uncle Charlie (Randal Zielinski). He receives while there a phone call from Neil (Deniz Demirer), his successful entrepreneur estranged friend and Thea’s brother, and they plan to meet again after not seeing each other because of a falling out several years ago at a casino when Eddie got upset Neil was so interested in money and seemed to be under the influence of his materialistic business partner. But they won’t meet because Neil is mugged and killed in Golden Gate Park, something the police call “a mugging gone awry.” 

The sullen Edgar now gets embroiled in the murder and becomes obsessed in trying to find the killer, as he returns every day to the crime scene with a camera.

One day Eddie’s befriended by a park jogger, Maggie (Catherine Lerza), a psychotherapist, who gets him to be interviewed for her paper on Grief and Loss. Maggie tells him her companion jogger, the freaky Daria (Tiziana Perinotti), saw Neil’s body the day of the fatal incident. When Edgar meets the arty Daria, she brings him home and does a ‘fuck me’ dance for him. When he rejects her advances, telling her he’s engaged, she has a fit and tells him she made up the story of seeing the dead body.

While playing poker with Uncle Charlie, Edgar meets a hostile drifter from Canada, with a shady past, living in the crime scene park, Carmine (Raul Delarosa). He’s a stranger Uncle Charlie felt sorry for because he was crying when he met him on the road and let him live for a time in the same room Edgar is now using. Edgar has a bad feeling about the drifter and suspects him of the mugging. He also reads the library book Carmine left behind about Sleep Disorders, entailing stories about sleepwalking.

Meanwhile at the workplace, Edgar gets off to a bad start with his frosty radio boss Gabby (Penny Werner).

Strangely, he has little contact with Thea. But he goes with her when she wants to buy the house they will live in when married. It’s an expensive house of a divorced couple. But he refuses to sign off on the house because he believes it has bad vibes. The untenable situation causes them to split.

At this time, Eddie believes by going full treatment Columbo on the murder investigation he will find what is troubling him.Thereby Eddie follows Carmine around and wonders how he got the money to buy an expensive even if used RV and follows him to the Arizona desert, where he lands on an Indian reservation after sleepwalking from the car he parked in a motel lot to sleep in when the motel had no vacancies.

The troubled man is isolated and losing his mind in his new home. All this time he writes warm letters to his sister Faye (Alanna Blair) back on the East Coast telling her how much he misses being there.

The film is captivating because of its well-thought out screenplay (where not everything can be explained or should be), its fine direction and the superb natural performances by the skillful unknown cast. 

It’s challenging as a murder mystery story and engrossing as a psychological character study, as it tells of a bunch of damaged souls who don’t know what they’re doing (including Eddie) and are only trying to get by in a cold world where even murder and trying to act self-important to lift your ego are the accepted norms.

I recommend it for those cinephiles willing to stray from the usual Hollywood crime films and who might like it for being the kind of a mind-bending existential epic murder thriller that rarely gets made because the suits who control the mainstream film industry don’t have the taste or balls to make films without thinking of the bottom-line.

Overwhelm The Sky

REVIEWED ON 11/29/2019  GRADE: A-    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/