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The Independent Critic

Robert Nolan, Brett M. Butler, Jason G. Butler, Vittorio Cortese
Brett M. Butler and Jason G. Butler
76 Mins.

 "Mourning Has Broken" is the Best Film Yet from the Butler Brothers 
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If you were to weave together the cinematic remnants of Michael Douglas in Falling Down and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Love Liza, then you might have a good idea of what to expect from Robert Nolan in Mourning Has Broken. A dark comedy from the creative minds of brothers Brett and Jason Butler, Mourning Has Broken centers around a husband (Nolan) who refuses to deal with the death of his wife and ends up dealing with everything and everyone else that pisses him off instead.

Beware. When you have nothing else left to lose, you just might be willing to lose everything.

Mourning Has Broken was part of Toronto's 1k Feature Film Challenge Challenge in 2012, a challenge created by indie film queen Ingrid Veninger in which the film was one of five selected for participation. Written, shot, edited and delivered in three months, Mourning Has Broken is the kind of consummate indie film making that makes me proud to be a film critic devoted to bringing such works to the forefront. While the film is certainly darkly humorous, it is also filled with moments of genuine sentimentality, an almost serene authenticity and a remarkably vulnerable and exhilarating performance from Robert Nolan.

Nolan commands the screen in much the same way that Michael Douglas commanded when he brought William "D-Fens" Foster so vividly to life in 1993's Falling Down. While Douglas reached a breaking point and built into a spiraling rage, Nolan's performance is far more balanced and, I dare say, even more emotionally resonant as a man whose unexpressed grief becomes the fuel that drives him to exacting justice on every wrong, every irritant and every pet peeve in his life. While Douglas's actions became somewhat indefensible, there's never a time in Mourning Has Broken when you don't want to both laugh and cry with Nolan.

If there is any justice in the world of indie cinema, Nolan's name would be mentioned when The Independent Spirit Awards come around once again.

The film starts off with the absolutely perfect stroke as Nolan's character, known only as Husband throughout the film, is established as a genuinely good person as he awakens from a deep slumber beckoned by a very hungry cat. The scene, which the Butler Brothers allow to progress ever so slowly, establishes from point one that there's a heartfelt center driving everything that's about to follow. While I don't want to give away all the film's glorious secrets, suffice it to say that by film's end Nolan's grieving Husband will have gone toe-to-toe with pretty much every irritant that either you or I could possibly think of including the redneck dude (Brett Butler) who parks his big ass truck so close that you can't get into your vehicle, the a**hole father (Jason Butler) ridiculing his son (Michael Salesio) for sucking at sports, a dishonest auto mechanic (Graham Kent), a whole movie theater full of loud and obnoxious patrons, an equally obnoxious know-it-all neighbor (Shawn Devlin) and quite a few more. In fact, it's nothing short of remarkable that the Butler Brothers have included dozens of scenes shot in dozens of locations all shot in three days using natural lighting for just shy of $1,000.

Take that indie filmmakers. No more excuses.

The camera work of D.P. Michael Jari Davidson is stand-out, especially when you consider the film's low-budget and the use of natural lighting. There are so many scenes that are shot just perfectly, ranging from the absolutely marvelous opening scene all the way over to a record stone scene that is without a doubt the film's most emotionally exhilarating and beautifully photographed moments.

The film also features an excellent original score from Phil Tessis, while enough can't be said about the intelligent and funny and emotionally honest script penned by Brett and Jason Butler. While the film unquestionably centers around the one-man force known as Robert Nolan, whom I'd previously seen in the shorts Teach'er and Worm, the supporting cast is solid as well with particular standouts JoAnn Nordstrom as a bartender with whom Nolan's character has long harbored feelings, Robyn-Kay Pilarski as a hilariously bitchy woman who tires of waiting on "her" parking spot, Vittorio Cortese as a particularly bothersome barfly and Kevin Scott as a high pressure salesman.

Mourning Has Broken is really just getting started on its festival run and should have no problem at all finding a home on the indie and micro-fest circuit, though it'd be a waste if some of the big budget fests don't latch onto this low-budget and truly indie gem.

For more information on Mourning Has Broken, visit the film's Facebook page listed in the links on the left. Watch for the film at a festival near you.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic