Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blu-ray/DVDebut: David Burris' Appalachia-set clan saga, THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT

With a nod to the Hatfields and McCoys, the Civil War, and a little modern-day drug-dealing, the quietly engrossing movie THE WORLD MADE STRAIGHT -- based on the novel of the same name by Award winning Carolina writer Ron Rash (born in South C but raised in North C) -- turns out to be a very nice surprise. Yes, the movie could be better: a bit tighter with less repetition and not quite so heavy-handed at times. But there is an integrity about the entire undertaking, starting, I should guess, with the original novel by Mr. Rash, and proceeding from there through the screenplay (Shane Danielsen), dialog, direction (David Burris) and performances from the entire cast that finally makes this sad tale (of family ties that span generations, guilt, bad behavior and maybe some redemption) believable, resonant and even somewhat memorable.

Mr. Burris, shown at left, has more experience in the television field than with movies, yet his work here most definitely looks like a film. He handles his cast well, and serves the interests of both Mr. Rash and Mr. Danielsen. From the opening scene, which features a Civil War execution/ massacre of a family (this is handled, as is most of the movie's content, seriously, effectively and with minimum gore) into the more-or-less present-day events, the plot moves along quietly and with an ever-growing sense of dread that keeps building.

The film's biggest question is, Who, exactly, are these people to each other? By the end we have some answers, though these will have grown and changed somewhat from what we and certain characters imagined that we/they originally knew. This is especially true of Leonard (Noah Wyle, above), a sometimes drug dealer and native of the area, and Travis (Jeremy Irvine, below), the young man whom he meets in one fashion and begins to mentor in another.

It's clear than both these guys have a connection to the Civil War and to the family we saw at the beginning, but how, what and why is seriously clouded. Also on hand is Leonard's sometimes girl (Minka Kelly, below),

and a young nurse (played by Adelaide Clemens, below) who becomes attracted to Travis during his stay in the hospital. Death hangs over the movie heavily from the outset, yet nothing happens to our modern-day folk for quite a long while.

Via fast and occasional flashbacks, we piece together some of the backstory, all of which simply adds to the sense of foreboding that the movie handles so well. Basically a kind of coming-of-age tale featuring folk who may or may not live to come of that age, The World Made Straight does a commendable job of limning the lives of people so steeped in their own pain and envy, pride and stupidity that they can barely understand there might be another way of life.

Those who do must leave this barren-spirited place. One of them does (alive, too), and we have hopes that another couple of our characters will manage this, as well. It's very much to the movie's credit that anything positive that happens here seems absolutely earned. A word should also be said for the fine cinematography (by Tim Orr) in which the place -- North Carolina -- appears every bit as beautiful and spacious as the people seem drab, frightened, cornered or conflicted.

After an exceedingly limited theatrical release last month, the film -- from Alchemy and running two hours exactly -- will be available on Blu-ray and DVD this coming Tuesday, February 17. Streaming and VOD, I imagine, will be coming soon....

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