If you're a regular reader of The Independent Critic, then you already likely know that this week's wide releases have proven to be a rather mediocre bunch with grades of C+, D+, and D+. While none of these films would necessarily qualify as box-office blockbuster material with mega-budgets, these ratings are still pretty important to consider when you contemplate one very basic fact about director Shawn Holmes's Wild Eye Releasing film Memory Lane.
The production budget for Memory Lane? $300.
That's right. $300.
For the amount many Hollywood motion pictures spend on toilet paper, Shawn Holmes has crafted a thought-provoking thriller with more intelligence and intrigue than a good number of today's big budgeted thrillers. The story centers around Nick (Michael Guy Allen), a PTSD-plagued war vet who returns home to discover that his fiance', Kayla (Meg Braden), has committed suicide. Deciding to take his own life, Nick sees in flashbacks moments before he is resuscitated something that causes him to believe that Kayla's death wasn't suicide but murder. To solve the mystery, Nick must travel back-and-forth between our world and the afterlife in search of her killer. To do it, he must die over-and-over again.
Filmed with more than a little reverence for such similar thrillers as Pi, Memento, and Primer, Memory Lane experienced some success on the indie/underground fest circuit with screenings at Razor Reel, PollyGrind Film Festival, and Sci-Fi London and also picked up a prize for Best Director at the American International Film Festival. The film is finally getting the distribution it deserves with up-and-coming indie distributor Wild Eye Releasing, with packaging that includes a surprising number of bonus extras that aren't always found among the ultra-indies including a fine director's commentary, deleted scenes, short films, screen tests and more.
Now then, I will confess that the "B" grade given to Memory Lane is awarded on a wee bit of a curve. There's no question that the film's modest, okay paltry, budget is obvious at times, sometimes painfully obvious, and there's no question that the film suffers from the usual low-budget indie problem of hit-and-miss performances primarily amongst its supporting players. While I'm usually an advocate for directors working well within their limitations, I must confess that it's occasionally pretty awesome to watch a talented filmmaker simply go for it despite knowing, and I'm sure that Holmes knew, that they were facing some obstacles that were simply insurmountable. Memory Lane is a flawed film that is still a blast to watch.
Holmes does a fine job of taking Memory Lane down Nolan Boulevard or Aronofsky Avenue, but one can also see where Holmes is getting his own directorial footing in place and getting a strong sense of his own artistic sensibility. Memory Lane is the work of a promising director whose work is likely to improve and it's pretty darn good starting out.
With solid performances by co-leads Allen and Braden, Memory Lane is definitely a thought-provoking, thrilling, and squirm-inducing thriller with solid lensing by Holmes and a script that leaves you contemplating the film long after the closing credits have rolled. If you get the chance, check it out.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic