It was only a few months ago that I found myself returning to the stage that I'd long ago set aside in favor of a more practical life. While I'd been a theater major in college with a few stage productions to my credit, I found more success behind the scenes. I wrote a few plays. I had a few plays produced. I dabbled in arts criticism and experienced my share of success doing so. Then, the simple reality of living life with a disability convinced me that a life on stage was simply not to be.
So, instead I worked. I got married. I had a kid. I bought a house. I lived a good life and I was, at least I thought, for the most part happy.
Then, a few years ago writing re-entered my life through the form of film criticism and The Independent Critic was born.
Then, IT happened. Encouraged by a longtime friend, I found myself onstage doing stand-up comedy. I wasn't that funny, really.
I was in heaven.
Life Inside Out, a Crystal Heart Award winner at the upcoming 2013 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, takes a similar journey in telling the parallel stories of Laura (Maggie Baird), a married mother of three teenage sons, and Shane (Finneas O'Connell), one of the aforementioned sons who also happens to be considered a misfit and loner. When Laura accidentally stumbles across her long forgotten guitar, she rediscovers her passion for music and begins performing in a local open stage. Desperate to escape the latest fishing trip with his father and two brothers, Shane begins accompanying mother and even after initially bombing onstage she quickly finds her place amidst the clubs and unusual characters and, perhaps more importantly, she and Shane both begin to express their true selves that had for so long been quiet.
Then, reality sets in again.
An intelligent and involving story, Life Inside Out will unquestionably be embraced by fans of Indy's Heartland Film Festival, a festival that seeks to put the spotlight on cinema that celebrates the positive and inspiring side of life. This is exactly what Life Inside Out does, but it does so in a way that is filled with rich authenticity and complex characters whose lives we appreciate for their honesty. Life Inside Out celebrates those who have a song to sing, but also keeps it real by acknowledging that there will be struggles, down times, stressors, and conflicts along the way.
The film's two leads, Maggie Baird and Finneas O'Connell, are real life mother and son and that truth infuses the film with a heartfelt intimacy and comfort that will make you laugh and cry along the way. Baird, who co-wrote the script with comedy writer Lori Nasso, lights up the screen in a way that is simple, heartfelt and beautiful to behold. O'Connell, a young actor who really did teach himself to play guitar off of Youtube videos, could have so easily sunk into caricature as an isolated family misfit but he wisely avoids such an approach by embodying the inner truth beneath Shane's behaviors.
Life Inside Out is directed by Jill D'Agnenica, a first-time feature film director with an extensive editing background in television. D'Agnenica has a tremendous visual eye and frame after frame of Life Inside Out draws you in and refuses to let you go. D'Agnenica is aided in this endeavor by the top notch lensing of Guido Frenzel, who clearly understands that this is a character-driven film and keeps his lens framed beautifully on the relationships between these characters.
Life Inside Out will have several screenings at the Heartland Film Festival, October 17-26, and it's the kind of high quality, heartfelt, and inspiring film we've all come to expect from the festival and non-profit organization widely known for its Truly Moving Picture Award. For more information on the 2013 Heartland Film Festival, visit the Heartland Film Festival website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic