There are reasons why James Franco has long been on my top ten list for desired interviews. The Oscar nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor has long been, at least for this critic, a Hollywood misfit who, for the most part, has been misused by the Hollywood machinery and who has truly shined in his Rabbit Bandini projects and the indie scene which seems to constantly feed him both artistically and intellectually.
REAL Actors would find themselves doing a project like A Walk in Winter, though it's likely a lower-budgeted short film and the kind of film that here in America doesn't attract the likes of Franco or, for that matter, any other actor whose name is instantly familiar.
Franco has always been different, though certainly I don't know him personally and only once actually got close to an interview when I managed to interview the cast and co-producer for one of his early indie projects, The Ape. For some, Franco is maddeningly inconsistent, an award-winning turn just as likely to be followed by an awkward hosting project or some big budget, cookie cutter Hollywood feature that never quite clicks. Occasionally, a director such as Danny Boyle will come along and figure out how to put the pieces together. Most, however, will not.
The truth is that I've never seen a weak Franco indie project. Oh sure, some are quirky and outrageous and experimental, but the word "weak" has never crossed my lips when I watch Franco be true to himself. I get the feeling that there's something deep inside that unfathomably intelligent brain that was rocked when he agreed to appear in Ryan Moody's tremendously effective and moving short film A Walk in Winter. You can feel it registering in the way that Franco moves, looks and processes the world around him as a young man returning to the small town where he grew up with the grim task of identifying remains believed to be his long missing mother.
A Walk in Winter is a beautiful little short, not just because of Franco but because everyone here is on their A-game and the film looks and breathes like an old Twin Peaks episode buried six-feet deep in harsh reality.
The film will have its Seattle premiere as part of the Seattle Shorts Film Festival taking place from November 11-13, 2016. Based upon a novel by Robert Boswell, Jessica Nikkel's screenplay captures the soul of Boswell's writing even tasked with doing so within the confines of a 14-minute short film. Franco's performance as Conrad is transparent and aching yet, quite refreshingly, not overly dramatized and, in fact, a tad quirky. Abigail Spencer shines as Abigail, the small town's dispatcher with whom Conrad slowly uncovers the truth of secrets long left in the past but destined not to stay there. Jack Kehler adds some welcome lightness to the film, while Jack Sochet casts a melancholy and memorable shadow as Conrad's father. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the quietly remarkable turn by Max Leifman, whose appearance as a young Conrad may very well send shivers down your spine.
D.P. Ragland Williamson's lensing captures the isolative nature of this life-changing walk in winter, though Williamson also does a stellar job of framing shots in the film's quirkier and lighter moments. Adam Bokesch's original music is spot-on perfect.
A Walk in Winter is both an intellectually satisfying and emotionally honest experience featuring yet another example of James Franco's stellar indie work, yet it wouldn't be such an exemplary film without its similarly excellent ensemble and a production crew that is top notch across the board.
For more information on the Seattle Shorts Film Festival, visit the Seattle Shorts website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic