Sunday, March 28, 2010

On-Demand Find: AGAINST THE CURRENT, Peter Callahan's look at friendship & loss

Stick with AGAINST THE CURRENT, because this new, premiering-On-Demand film, written and directed by Peter Callahan (shown just below), takes awhile to get its "sea legs." A small, independent film with a very good cast, it starts out not badly but shakily, as an arrangement is made by three odd people that you simply have to take on faith. It's not a matter of suspen-
ding disbelief as much as it is feeling that you simply don't have enough information to either accept or reject what is happening.

Fair enough. Once this infor-
mation is provided, however, it packs such a wallop that you must start from scratch again, in terms of accepting or rejec-
ting what you've just seen and heard. One reason that you'll probably proceed is that you will expect the obvious Holly-
wood handling -- independent-style, of course -- regarding this very tricky subject, and you'll want to see your pre-conceptions carried out.

The press notes for Against the Current state that it is based on a true story, though the movie itself says no such thing. If it is, fine; it not, that's OK, too, because Callahan's handling of his story finds its own truth -- and plenty of it -- which is what movies are for, right? It is specific and honest enough that I believe you will go with it and be moved, amused and perhaps shaken. 

The filmmaker has managed a very quiet film, in which the characters do little but watch and talk, while one of them swims. Yet the reality of the situation slowly grows -- on them and on us. A side trip to the home of one character's mother provides a needed respite, some brittle conversation and finally a necessary closeness that then carries us to the conclusion.

The three lead performers could hardly be better: Joseph Fiennes (from Shakespeare in Love), shown on the poster at top and two photos above, as the swimmer; Justin Kirk (from Flannel Pajamas), above left, as his best and nearly life-long friend; and Elisabeth Reaser , above, right, (from Puccini for Beginners and Sweet Land) as the interesting third wheel.  Although Ms Reaser's character is initially the most difficult to countenance, it is she who finally provides the cement that glues the film together.  This actress is really one of our best currently at work, radiating intelligence and beauty, and when necessary, grit, charm and whatever else is called for.  Kirk and Fiennes work off each other beautifully: You feel the bond between them and so, when words fail, that's quite all right.

Mary Tyler Moore (above, right, with Fiennes and Reaser) and Michelle Trachtenberg (below left, with Fiennes) from Beautiful Ohio, offer nice supporting moments, but the movie belongs to Callahan and his three leads.  If I am being deliberately evasive regarding the theme here, this is necessary to allow you your own surprise and coming to terms with what is going on.  By the moving conclusion, I think you'll agree that the film has indeed found its sea legs -- as has, in his own way, our "hero."

Against the Current, via Sundance Selects, premiered On-Demand this past week and will continued to be available from most TV reception providers for the next two to three months.  Click here to find out if yours offer it and how to get it.

(All photos are from the film itself, except that of the director, 
which is by Larry Busacca, courtesy of Getty Images.)

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