I recently had the opportunity to screen an independent film that I
missed a few months back at the Austin Film Festival where it received
a lot of good buzz. So many times when a movie doesn't make it onto
my schedule, it is rare treat to get another chance ti check it out.
Boy am I glad that I was given another chance to see STRINGS.
The story centers around Billy, a piano man who is not only struggling
to make a living as a musician, he is also fighting to salvage his
marriage with his wife Chavine following the tragic loss of their
daughter. Not helping matters, Chavine numbs the pain with alcohol
and is constantly reminded by her mom that Billy's lack of steady
income was a major contributing factor when health care costs
prevented the couple from saving their little one.
While all of this may sound seriously dreary, it's what happens when
Billy seeks solace at a grief support group that changes the direction
of the film entirely. Billy chooses to participate in a secret
radical form of therapy wherein an individual completely cuts all
ties, or strings, to his or her past and takes on a completely new
identity. The catch is that in exchange for erasing his existence,
Billy must become "Jimmy", a member of a clandestine group of for-hire
vigilantes. The group practices zero tolerance when it comes to
cutting all ties to their former lives and staying on the down-low.
Members who fail are swiftly executed by the merciless leader of the
When the newly indoctrinated Jimmy breaks the rule of anonymity by
showing up on a surveillance video, he is granted one more chance,
albeit one that requires him to undergo massive reconstructive surgery
that will once and for all erase any resemblance to his former self.
From here the story gets even more intense as the new Jimmy fails to
resist the temptation to check in on the loved ones from his past.
Directing team Ben Foster and Mark Dennis weave a wholly unique story
that resembles nothing I can recall. Just when I was beginning to
think that STRINGS was another indie drama, the directors shifted the
tone, and suddenly I found myself enjoying more of a thriller than the
usual histrionic fare. When the action eventually dies down, the
remainder of the film proves to be a very poignant and bittersweet
tale about confronting the past and ultimately finding resolve.
The film is beautifully shot in a captivating style that perfectly
compliments the seriousness of the subject matter. Blues and grays
dominate the palate while lovely lingering shots and various
interesting transitions make for an overall top notch visual
experience. Thanks to a wonderfully fresh story from
writer/co-director Mark Dennis, the finale of the film truly feels
like the end of an incredible journey.
The performances by Billy Harvey and Chris Potter in the duel
Billy/Jimmy roles are solid and solemn, but are fortunately not overly
dramatic. Though Elle LaMont's Chavine doesn't have a lot to work
with in her brief scenes at the beginning of the film, she finally
gets her turn in the third act and succinctly captures the heartache
of the character. The scene stealer's, however, are the baddies of
the vigilante group, Cleveland Trombone and Jack played by Karl
Anderson and Jack Lee, respectively. The stellar performances from
these two elevate the film even further from the standard indie drama.
So now that I've stamped STRINGS with my definite seal of approval, I
am most happy to report that everyone will soon have an opportunity to
check it out. The same geniuses who brought us Groupon have started
their own on demand site called prescreen.com and soon STRINGS will be
available for all to see! So, please check it out when you get a
chance. I think you will be as pleasantly surprised by STRINGS as I
- Annette Kellerman