THIS IS MARTIN BONNER (director/writer: Chad Hartigan; cinematographer: Sean McElwee; editor: Julio Perez IV; music: Keegan DeWitt; cast: Paul Eenhoorn (Martin Bonner), Richmond Arquette (Travis Holloway), Sam Buchanan (Diana), Robert Longstreet (Steve Helms), Jan Haley (Angela Helms), Demetrius Grosse(Locy), Moira Price (Cheryl); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Cherie Saulter; Monterey Media; 2013)
“Thankfully it avoids the sentimentality of so many other similar redemption indie pics.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An effective gentle meditative character study by Irish-born writer-director Chad Hartigan(“Luke and Brie Are on a First Date”) on getting a second chance in America and in seeing clearly what you are doing. Being drunk or not seeing your situation is viewed as definite no nos, that could lead to serious consequences for both you and someone else. Opening up spiritually and not thinking of others as merely objects is the way to evolve in this tender message film delivering valuable life lessons (drenched in Christian values that translates to other believers) about decent people under duress now willing to put themselves under the looking glass for further reflection.
Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn) is divorced and has two adult children living on their own. The Australian expat, who is 58-years-old, after fired from his church business manager’s job on account of his divorce and going broke, begins a new gig as a volunteer counselor working for a Christian charity that helps paroled convicts, eligible for an early release, try to get a head start in preparing for their adjustment to life outside of prison. Having moved a month ago from Maryland to Reno, the mecca for divorce, gambling and lost souls reinventing themselves, we observe a close relationship build between Martin’s first client, the inquisitive but friendly, Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette), who enters the program after serving a 12-year stretch for DUI manslaughter. The divorced middle-aged Travis wishes to reconcile with his twenty-something grad school librarian Sacramento living daughter Diane (Sam Buchanan), whom he has not seen since imprisoned, and chooses to be counseled by the kindly kindred soul Martin rather than his less open-minded assigned zealous Christian mentor Steve Helms (Robert Longstreet).
The quirky pic doesn’t make much noise and there’s no big Hollywood developments to skew the plot but, for the right viewer, this indie flick gets right to the heart of digging out how hard it is to make relationships and how difficult it is to find yourself when seemingly lost, an outsider and abandoned. A wonderful brooding and intelligent performance by Australian thesp Paul Eenhoorn, who keeps dark secrets to himself and also hidden from the viewer, but nevertheless can overcome his troubles and with great dignity reach out to others in need. Eenhoorn’s the glue that holds this worthy pic together. His tormented counterpart, Arquette, is so stricken by events that he carries his past lapses on his back as an unbearable burden of sin, and through his excellent characterization clearly shows that each person is responsible for his own fate. The superb internalized performances by Eerhoorn, Arquette and Buchanan bring this topical narrative to a fine open-ended conclusion and thankfully it avoids the sentimentality of so many other recent similar redemption indie pics.
REVIEWED ON 10/15/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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