The best indie films don’t treat audiences like children.
Major plot points aren’t spelled out in crayon or Voice of God-style narration. The audience is trusted to tease out the characters, situations and surroundings with subtle clues from the filmmakers.
It makes the indie film-going experience richer, more rewarding. Think solving a 1,000 piece puzzle at long last.
“Buck Run” pushes that philosophy to the breaking point.
Impeccably crafted, “Buck Run” strips away conventional storytelling tropes. We’re left with a tone poem gussied up as a feature film. You can’t look away but you’re not always sure why.
Young Shaw Templeton (Nolan Lyons) just lost his mother, and he’s not processing her death well. He lived with her dead body for two days before word leaked of her passing.
Shaw’s estranged father, Will (James Le Gros) is hardly fit to raise the lad. He’s a drinker who scrambles for cash by working the local flea market crowd. They’re a terrible fit, and Shaw’s life is made even worse by an overweight school bully.
The teen just wants to see his mother given a proper funeral, but even that could be out of reach.
And that’s … it.
Director Nick Frangione’s quasi-biographical tale takes care to line up small town flourishes. Area children are allowed time off for hunting season, for example. The local economy is a ponderous weight pressing on everyone in Shaw’s orbit.
Even “Buck Run’s” color scheme reflects a thousand shades of earth gray.
Incredibly honored by this First Prize win at Flickers Rhode Island Int’l Film Fest! @JamesLe_Gros @nolanlyonss @AmyHargreavesNY @nandegnan @lopezJulioV @tchivalette @HarleyKaplan pic.twitter.com/iS2C8wKMnv
— Nick Frangione (@directorfrangio) August 14, 2019
Lyons immediately captures our heart as a boy stripped of the one thing that mattered most -- his mother’s love. He carries the film, no doubt, but there’s little in the way of character development to savor.
The same holds true for Le Gros’ Will, a broken soul who initially shows few signs of redemption.
We wait, and wait, enmeshed in a version of Small Town USA that feels suffocating, if rarely insulting. There’s simply no payoff, not the kind of revelation that smacks of screenwriter contrivance nor the tiny measures that mark real life advances.
We hunger for something, anything, following such meticulous work, to no avail.
“Buck Run” captures hunting culture without commentary, from the early morning companionship to the meat the hunters expertly glean from their efforts. The sequences are shot with care and confidence, something other filmmakers might weaponize for ideological gains.
“Buck Run” is maddening for its indifferent third act. There’s drama, and pain, and still we’re left with emotions and textures that give way to little else.
HiT or Miss: “Buck Run” offers a compelling snapshot of rural America, a place where hunting is an official part of life. What’s missing is a kernel of story to hang the delicate affair on.