Wednesday, March 3, 2010

QUICK NOTES: Ballast, d. Lance Hammer

In my gentle opinion, every film I watch merits a write-up.  Perhaps it isn't the academic dissection of a great film, or the study of a film in its chronological context, but still, I believe, and please disagree with me (everyone else seems to), that ever film warrants discussion.  Yes, this discussion may just for me to better place the film within the vast filmic storage unit that is my brain, but perhaps a brief write-up will get you excited, stray your opinion, turn you on to a burst of cinema you'd have blindly passed in the street.

Or maybe it's just because I love to write about film.


The Film: Ballast 
The Director: Lance Hammer

The Hype:  Quite honestly, I can't recall as to where or when or why I've heard about this film.  A roommate (two roommates actually) had mentioned it in passing, but somewhere amongst the stunning disorganization of my life, it must've slipped my mind.  That said, Ballast swept and mopped the award shows in 2008, and when it serendipitously fell in my possession I dove right in.

The Truth:  Filmed in beautiful desolation of the Mississippi Delta, Ballast focuses on the relationship between a depressed twin (Michael J. Smith Jr.), his nephew (JimMyron Ross) and sister-in-law (Marlee) in the wake of his brother's suicide.  The Mississippi Delta is a stark and dangerous seeming place for a bored teenager to be running amok, and with the help of a group of non-actors, director Lance Hammer brings this harsh reality to life in a poetic, yet stunningly realistic manner.

I was most impressed with Michael J. Smith Jr.'s portrayal of the obviously intelligent yet numbingly depressed twin Lawrence.  There's a deep set softness in the character, a sort bumbling naivete, hardened by a sharp edge of lonely anger against the world.  The film follows Lawrence as he's forced, at gunpoint even, to re-enter the life of a woman, and her child, who hate him, and Hammer show's us the world with out reserving any judgment.  These characters are immensely broken and attempting to survive in a world that continues to pile on the misery, and this film isn't about their redemption or their success, it's just about them, and the small period of life in which we get to view them.

Final Thoughts:  As I get older and view more films, I find more and more enjoyment in these weighty character studies.  I've grown bored with big budget (as any aging film fan should) and this sort of quiet, tense look in to a whole different way of living was both gorgeous and fascinating.

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