CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Film Review: Honest Characters, Stellar Performances Carry ‘This is Martin Bonner’
CHICAGO – Having recently had its Windy City premiere at the 2013 Chicago Critics Film Festival after winning a major award at Sundance, Chad Hartigan’s “This is Martin Bonner” is a character drama that could be read as a commentary on the intangible things we can do for the needy beyond financial help, job-finding, or religious guidance but also works purely as a simple tale of two men who form a unique, unexpected friendship. It’s a very low-key, slowly paced piece that has a cumulative power through its honesty and realism. So much so that by the time it climaxes in a scene at a diner, I couldn’t have been more riveted to the screen and it was purely through the truth of the performances. There may not be much story here but there’s so much more character than we’re used to seeing that one doesn’t care.
Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn) is a former business manager for a church who now finds himself working for a company that guides convicts through their final months behind bars and first ones outside of the joint. In the opening scene, he gets into something of a verbal confrontation with a potential “client,” a man to whom he gives the pitch about work training and the minimum wage that comes with it only to be asked what Bonner really brings to the table. Minimum wage at a crappy job? That’s all you got? In some ways, the plot of “This is Martin Bonner” comes from that discussion in that it’s about the kind of support and understanding that we can bring to people that’s not so easily quantifiable.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “This is Martin Bonner” in our reviews section.|
Bonner is a kind, simple man, who has found himself in a new town in Nevada (where no one was born and raised; only moved there). He speaks regularly to his daughter on the phone and leaves messages for a harder-to-reach son. His daughter has signed him up for online dating, to which he reluctantly submits with a sly grin on his face from the knowledge that she’s really just trying to make him happy. He has barely unpacked, makes simple meals in his tiny apartment, and doesn’t seem to have much friends. He’s not unlike an ex-con trying to start a new life — which is why I think he takes to Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette), one of Bonner’s colleague’s clients who finds an easier connection with Bonner than his assigned “sponsor,” Steve Helms (Robert Longstreet).
This is Martin Bonner
Photo credit: Monterey Media