Two men. Danny (Danny Donnelly) and Spencer (Leonidas Grimanis).
One shared experience. Years have passed by, but there are certain life experiences that you truly never leave behind you.
They've both lived very different lives.
Spencer is an actuary. He measures risks. He determines life expectancy, if you will.
It's a coincidence, I'm sure.
Danny, well, he's surviving but barely. He's damaged in more ways than one.
Two different men. Common Grounds.
Written and directed by Kris Roselli (Yellow, Flesh Eaters: A Love Story), Common Grounds is a profoundly involving film that is both intellectually and emotionally jarring. Roselli doesn't paint a Hollywood-styled portrait through rose-colored lenses here, but instead a disturbing and painful portrait of real life with the emphasis on real.
There are things to be found in Common Grounds that will disturb you.
They should disturb you. If you're not disturbed, then you may very well be damaged as well.
Common Grounds is an intense and complex story that is somehow told convincingly and with the closure we need going away from it within the relatively short span of a 36+ plus minute short. While the film largely centers upon the characters of Spencer and Danny as adults, the truth is I was mesmerized by the scenes of the two in their childhood. These scenes could have so easily been gimmicky, especially given that we see them more than once but, alas, they are not gimmicky.
They are real. They are mesmerizing. Kudos must be given to Sebastian and Severyn Banes for playing young Danny and young Spencer, respectively. While their older counterparts simmer with intensity and years of unchecked baggage, these two children are tasked with portraying innocence and more.
They do so exquisitely.
As the adult Danny, Danny Donnelly is brimming with a heartbreaking explosiveness that makes him almost hypnotic to watch. There are moments that will haunt you until long after the closing credits have rolled and both Donnelly and Grimanis bring these moments powerfully to life.
Grimanis has the quieter part in many ways. It offers, at least for the most part, less showy expression and more beneath the surface intensity. The intensity is still there, but Grimanis's Spencer has learned how to keep it in check.
Maybe. Maybe not.
D.P. Joseph Nasto's lensing is dark and moody with the adults, light and playful and foreboding with the children. The rest of the production crew does solid work as well, creating different yet equally impactful worlds.
Common Grounds is getting its start on the film fest circuit and, indeed, I'd expect it to be quite successful. With a compelling story and strong performances, Common Grounds tells an uncommon story of inner forgiveness and the seemingly irrevocably twisted ways in which the past can devastate our present and future. If you get a chance, you'll want to check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic