In the past five years, Ray Ross (Doug Phillips) and his daughter Gail (Brittany Noelle Kamrath) have lost two family members. When Ray's new wife and singing partner Raylene (Jennifer Cha) is diagnosed with cancer, the family must learn to confront and resolve some of their deeply buried issues.
Written and directed by Doug Phillips, Lightning Strikes Twice is the latest film from his Northern Iron Productions and just had its world premiere on February 24th at New Hope Cinema Grill in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The film has been almost ten years in the making with Phillips having picked up the prize for Best Feature Screenplay at the Bare Bones Film Festival in April 2005.
Lightning Strikes Twice has had its stops and starts along the way, but Phillips finally finished the film's shoot in 2010 before running into editing complications that delayed the film's completion until 2013.
If you're unfamiliar with the work of Doug Phillips, Phillips is a true indie filmmaker with several films to his credit including Remake, Not Quite Lyin' Eyes, and Lucky Day among others. A Phillips production typically involves a relatively small network of familiar actors and crew, and while it's unlikely his films, at least up to this point, would be found in a multiplex they do solidly represent the good and the bad, the pros and the cons of being what one might call a microcinema filmmaker.
At 130 minutes in length, Lightning Strikes Twice isn't likely to attract a lot of festival attention even among the truly indie/underground fests. That said, it's clear from early on in the film that Phillips has remained faithful to his vision and created the film that he wanted to make.
As is often true of Phillips' films, Lightning Strikes Twice also has a strong core of faith in its framework despite likely being just a touch too mature for the more traditional faith-based market. Phillips is nearly always interested in the human journey in life, and Lightning Strikes Twice again examines the more vulnerable aspects of what it means to be human and live in relationships.
While the acting this time around is just a little more hit-and-miss than is usually found in a Phillips film, especially among the supporting players, Jennifer Cha has several particularly spot-on scenes and frequent Phillips collaborator Donna Marie Beard again shines. The music, contributed by multiple collaborators, is frequently involving and it certainly is worth mentioning that the script from Phillips is a particularly astute and insightful work.
Lightning Strikes Twice will be available quite soon on Amazon, and while I'm not quite prepared to call it Phillips' best film it's still a terrific way to support an indie filmmaker and features an involving story that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with family dysfunctions and/or trauma.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic