Saturday, November 14, 2020

Mark Lewis' new film, STRIDER makes debut via the St. Louis International Film Festival

Having just remarked in my last post how I prefer not to cover film festivals, here I go again -- because yet another film I wanted to see is making its debut via one of those fests. The venue this time is the St. Louis International Film Festival, while the movie in question is a new one entitled STRIDER by a filmmaker named Mark Lewis. If that name does not ring an immediate bell, it's only because you have not yet seen Mr. Lewis' earlier, groundbreaking movie about sex and connection,   Enthusiastic Sinners. His latest is not a groundbreaker, but it is an enjoyable tale of, again, connection, this time between two women -- one a teenager, the other well into her middle age -- and the sport that helps join these two.

Strider also demonstrates what TrustMovies suspects is one of Mr. Lewis' (the writer/director, who also made the delightful Wild Girl Waltz, is shown at left) movie-making concerns. He seems to prefer to begin -- and to end -- in the middle of things, not tying up too neatly all the loose ends, while allowing his characters to develop naturally and believably.

As sexual as was Enthusiastic Sinners and to a lesser extent Wild Girl Waltz, his new film seems almost equally chaste. Sex is certainly mentioned -- particularly as possible motive for the actions here. But, no: While sex is certainly not frowned upon, neither does it seem to be chief in the mind of any of the film's characters. This alone makes Strider rather unusual for this day and age.

Another thing that marks Lewis' three films is how genuinely non-judgmental they are. Sure, characters make their decisions, act on them and accept the consequences, but you get no sense whatsoever that the filmmaker is in any way standing by and wagging his finger in negative fashion at their behavior. This in itself is pretty damned liberating because it forces us to examine more deeply and from non-standard angles subjects like sex, love, commitment and even recreational drug use.

s "take" on competition and the importance of winning is worth watching and considering, too. The movie does not go where many audiences will expect it to, and yet, overall, I doubt they will be disappointed in its outcome. 

In addition to the training and running, we meet the interesting family of our pretty teenager (nicely played by Yelena Friedman, above), as well as a maybe boyfriend (Josiah Schneider, shown in photo at bottom) who appears on the scene and contributes his own likable sensibility to the proceedings. Our coach (Maggie Alexander, below, co-star of Enthusiastic Sinners) is a loner with her own checkered history. Yet the connection between the two women is made real and strong enough to push the film to its conclusion.

Both in style and content, Strider is certainly Lewis' closest-to-mainstream movie yet. This may disappoint some of his fans who prefer his more unusual, boundary-jumping approach. But I'm glad to see him at work, making a good movie of any sort.

You can find out more about the St. Louis International Film Festival by clicking the link, and learn how to view Strider via virtually streaming here.

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