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The Independent Critic

Taurean Royal, Jayla Royal, Antonio "Tarantino" Jones, Laila Robins
Durden Godfrey
73 Mins.

 Movie Review: Far From The Tree 
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If you're familiar with the work of writer/director Durden Godfrey, then the name of his latest film Far From The Tree should be enough to give you a darkly comical chuckle or two. With films like Never Go Back and I Am Going to Kill Someone This Friday, Godfrey has proven unafraid of tackling dark yet meaningful material destined to be loved by some and outright hated by others. Godfrey's is an indie voice without compromise, a voice that simultaneously compels and repulses then compels again. 

Far From The Tree seems normal at first. It's as if Godfrey's stumbled into something rather domesticated, a quiet little film about a quiet little family. Morgan (Jayla Royal) has just turned 18. She's about to break her father's heart. That father is played by real-life father Taurean Royal, a unique and powerful touch that adds to the emotional force of a film that spirals into a cinematic twister of sorts the deeper it gets into its brief but effective 73-minute running time. 

Set for its world premiere at Jacksonville, Florida's Sleeping Giant Fest at the end of March, Far From The Tree is the kind of film we've come to expect from Godfrey with a unique tapestry of normalcy meets pitch black humanity. You will like these people, Morgan and her father, and it's that attraction to them that makes Godfrey's stark, precise storytelling all the more effective. If you've seen Godfrey's films, then you've seen both Royals before and they never fail to impress. 

Jayla Royal shines as Morgan, a young woman coming to terms with who she is and working toward a coming out of sorts with her father. There's a strong family vibe between her and her father, though a subtle tension lets us know to expect there's more to this young woman than we're initially seeing. 

Similarly, Taurean Royal possesses an undeniable charisma that draws you in and refuses to let you go. We're never quite sure where he's going and that makes him remarkably compelling through to the very end.

As is often true on an awful lot of Godfrey's low-budget indie projects, he carries multiples roles including writer, director, cinematographer, sound, editing, casting, set decoration, and more. It's a tall order, however, it also lends the film a sense of smallness and intimacy that enhances the dialogue greatly. Original music from Bags, Antonio "Tarantino" Jones, Doctor Jones, and The Plainfield Admirations Into Bags is rock solid throughout and contributes to the film's eclectic narrative, visual, and aural rhythms. 

Among the supporting players, Laila Robins impresses as Dr. Kimbrell, Antonio "Tarantino" Jones is strong as James, and Ricky Boyce shines as Mandarin. 

It's difficult to talk about Far From The Tree without delving deeper into the story, though this is the type of film that will have audiences talking as they're leaving the theater mumbling to themselves "Did I really just see that?"

Yep, you did.

While there are certainly times when Far From The Tree's budget limitations show, more often than not simplicity works here and enhances the film's rough-edged grit and balls to the walls vulnerability. While Far From The Tree won't appeal to everyone, those who give it a go will find an indie gem that should have no problem finding a home on the indie/microcinema film circuit. Hopefully, an indie streamer will then pick up the film and help it find the audience it deserves. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic