Young Carson Minniear is having quite the cinematic year. A relative newcomer, Minniear's first big breakout was in a supporting role in the Justin Timberlake-led family drama Palmer. 5000 Blankets is the second time I've caught Minniear this year after his inspirational Rally Caps kicked off its festival journey in my hometown Heartland International Film Festival earlier this year and picked up the fest's Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.
With 5000 Blankets, set for a special two-day Fathom Event screening on December 12th and 13th, Minniear solidifies his status as an up-and-coming young actor with his role as Phillip Saunders, the son of Cyndi (Anna Camp) and Bobby (Rob Mayes). They're a seemingly idyllic family, though it's evident from the film's earliest moments that Bobby is having his share of struggles as pressures build up and a fragile mental state becomes more and more evident.
After a breakdown incident at work threatens his job, Bobby disappears from his suburban Texas home. The 5000 Blankets that follows is the story of a family's search for their loved one and their discovery of a world filled with people just like Bobby who struggle with mental illness, homelessness, and a variety of other issues including, as the title alludes to, simply staying warm.
While 5000 Blankets tackles serious issues, for the most part it's a feel-good and inspirational film centered around how this devastating family experience led young Phillip to start Texas-based non-profit organization Phillip's Wish, an organization that found its roots in Phillip's increasing awareness of the needs of the homeless in his community.
This balance can admittedly be a little bit awkward at times as director Amin Matalqa, working from a script by Larry Postel and Matthew Antonelli, has the difficult task of balancing the inherent drama of Bobby's profound struggles with the film's inspirational true story of how those struggles led Bobby's own son to change the lives of thousands in the family's community.
5000 Blankets benefits from a strong ensemble cast bringing the story to life. Minniear is an absolute gem as Phillip, believable as a compassionate young boy who seems to have acquired an abundance of admirable traits from both his mother and father. While I loved Minniear in Rally Caps when I caught the film earlier this year, 5000 Blankets really gives the young actor an opportunity to show his acting chops and should have Hollywood knocking on his door.
As Cyndi, Anna Camp shines in her realistic portrayal of a wife and mother trying to hold her family together without giving up hope and maintaining her faith. While in some ways 5000 Blankets really only scratches the surface of what it means to struggle with mental health issues, Camp's earthy and honest work here gives the film a strong layer of emotional resonance.
Rob Mayes is tasked with what may very well be the film's most challenging role as Bobby, whose mental health concerns could have easily become a caricature but for the most part this never happens. We're given far less time with Bobby, a handful of early scenes establishing his inherent and intended goodness as husband and father and most latter scenes vividly portraying his descent into psychological struggles and homelessness. The key for me, I suppose, is that Bobby is always seen through the lens of someone who is absolutely loved and absolutely worthy.
In fact, perhaps the thing 5000 Blankets accomplishes more than anything else is tearing down the walls between "them" and "us" and creating a community of "we."
Inspired by a true story, 5000 Blankets is a reminder of the power of cinema to tell stories that matter with heart, spirit, and conviction. This faith-based, family friendly drama is filled with hope while highlighting the power of family and faith to change individuals, families, and the world around us. An Affirm Original film, 5000 Blankets is in theaters nationwide for two nights only on December 12th and 13th with Fathom Events.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic