Director James Kicklighter serves up another winning film with Angel of Anywhere, an involving 16-minute short film about Angel (Axel Roldos), an empathetic male stripper whose nights are spent pouring out the love and affection, along with ample doses of therapy, to the wounded souls that enter his popular bar, Anywhere.
There's a Touched by an Angel joke in here somewhere.
In all seriousness, while you may be thinking you're in for some shallow, pointless cinematic short you should think again. While Roldos certainly isn't hard to look at and spends pretty much the entire film wearing minimal clothing, the truth is that there's a whole lot more going on in Angel of Anywhere than you would possibly think thanks to an intelligent, insightful and meaningful script from Kate Murdoch and Casey Nelson.
The film serves up a couple of key clients for Angel, both of whom are wounded souls - Michelle (Briana Evigan, Step Up films) is in an unhappy marriage where she feels unable to be honest about who she is, while by the time Brian (Ser'Darius Blain) shows up it has become abundantly clear that Angel truly is a guardian angel of sorts to his constantly on the edge peers and those who walk through the front door seeking some sort of solace they can't always even identify.
As Angel, Roldos is a believable hybrid of confident dancer meets an almost childlike wonder. It seems as if Roldos's presence alone is enough to heal those around him and even the very building itself. Yet, Roldos wisely plays it all with quiet, low-key humility that serves the character well and makes his natural chemistry with those he encounters feel entirely authentic.
If you've ever wanted about the power of film festivals, it's a rather important note that Roldos first encountered Kicklighter at an Atlanta film festival at a point when he was trying to create some opportunities to show his talent. While Roldos writes in his own blog that he knew Kicklighter was initially hesitant, something serious must've happened and suddenly the young, promising actor is co-starring with Briana Evigan and showing his stuff.
Get your mind out of the gutter.
Speaking of Evigan, she's an absolute gem here. Mostly known for her work in such films as Step Up 2, Step Up All In, and Sorority Row, Evigan proves here that she's got far better acting chops than she's been given credit for having. As Michelle, Evigan is rather dressed down yet warm, sympathetic and beautiful with a woundedness that she wears in her entire physical being. She delivers lines dripping with resignation and searching, while her natural chemistry with Roldos's Angel is utterly convincing.
While Evigan and Roldos are front-and-center, Ser'Darius Blain deserves kudos for painting tremendous shades of gray as Brian, a character who's not quite understood initially but whose presence is vital.
Jonathan Pope's lensing is top notch throughout Angel of Anywhere as he captures the electricity of the club along with the intimacy of its encounters. Christopher Cullen's production design and Nicolas Repetto's original music also deserve mention as they contribute to a film that is deeper than you expect and lingers with unexpected impact.
Kicklighter's cinematic work is regularly featured on The Independent Critic and Angel of Anywhere is proof positive that he continues to grow as a filmmaker and challenge both himself and his audiences.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic