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The Independent Critic

Barry Kneller, Dan Lauria, Beth Grant, Willie C. Carpenter, Molly Bearor, Sarah Belgrad
Randy Kent
Barry Kneller
74 Mins.
Tigerstorm Productions

 "Life of Lemon" Review 
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Lemon (Barry Kneller) believes himself to be, indeed, a lemon.

A 30-year-old repairman with no marketable skills other than "fixing things," Lemon's self-esteem is practically nil and having a father (Dan Lauria) who affirms his overall uselessness doesn't help matters.

One day, Lemon meets Lester (Willie C. Carpenter), a homeless war veteran . Somewhat surprisingly, Lemon and Lester forge a genuine friendship and, in the process, Lemon discovers the inspiration to aim for a better life. Lemon learns to believe in himself and, in return, the world in which he lives begins to change in ways he'd never imagined.

Reminiscent of the heart and spirit of recent films like The Ultimate Gift and Homeless for the Holidays, the modestly budgeted Life for Lemon is the sort of indie gem that indie and family film festival fans love to find - a film that is beautifully written, well acted, heartwarming and unabashedly hopeful.

Directed by Randy Kent, Life for Lemon features a rather extraordinary cast of well known indie and Hollywood character actors such as Laura (The Wonder Years), Beth Grant (No Country for Old Men), Rachel Miner (Bully, The Guiding light) and the marvelous Carpenter (The Insider) all backing up promising newcomer Barry Kneller.

As a film critic with a rather extreme devotion to reviewing and promoting micro and low-budget indie flicks, it often seems that 90% of the ultra-low budget fare I see involves hardcore action or horror. While I'm a fan of horror as much as the next guy, it's refreshing and exciting when an indie filmmaker slows down the pace and focuses more on character than killing.

Life of Lemon is a film about hoping through the hopeless, persevering through the persecution and finding a reason to believe and love even when life hands you, yes, lemons.

Written with tremendous tenderness and heart by Kneller, whose shorts Apple and Expired have also been reviewed here on The Independent Critic, Life of Lemon may reveal perfectly the kind of film that is tailor made for the young writer/actor. Kneller clearly has a gift for penning heartfelt scenes with touches of humor, bringing them marvelously to life with rich characters and Kent's disciplined yet relaxed direction.

While I'm more sold on Kneller as a writer than actor, he infuses Lemon with a wondrous spirit and heart that is infectious nearly impossible to not adore. Kneller provides a nice energy in his scenes with Carpenter, whose earthier and more grounded performance is a perfect contrast and gives Life for Lemon a richness and depth that makes you miss him when he's not on the screen. The same is true for the delightful Rachel Miner, who portrays a "wounded by love" veterinary tech who takes a liking to Lester and, thanks to Lester, to Lemon. Both Beth Grant and Dan Lauria shine as Lemon's parents, with Grant's performance particularly standing out.

Cira Fellina Bolla's camera work is stellar, avoiding many of the lighting and shading issues that often plague lower budget indie fare while never compromising on capturing the film's inspirational spirit. Don Spangler's original music complements the music well, without tugging on the heart strings too much or crossing the line into emotional manipulation.

Life of Lemon is currently on the film festival circuit, having already been an official selection at the International Family Film Festival, New Filmmakers New York and the Boston International Film Festival. For more information on Life of Lemon, visit the Life of Lemon website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

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