There's an entire world of cinema that for the most part remains unknown to a good portion of America. Some call it "microcinema," while others simply refer to it as low-budget filmmaking. Sometimes, the term "barebones" feels appropriate. Writer/director/actor Doug Phillips probably doesn't care much what you actually call it, but he does care about finding opportunities for his almost zero-budget films to find an audience and, hopefully, make a few bucks along the way and create an opportunity for the next film to be made. With his last film, Remake, Phillips had a breakthrough of sorts by picking up the Bonehead Award for Best Picture - Drama at the Bare Bones International Film Festival, a growing film festival that specializes in featuring just this type of film.
I've rated pretty much all of the films I've seen from Phillips right along that same line of 2.5 star or B-/C+. If you know my scale, you know this is right on that edge of "I recommend it." Not Quite Lyin' Eyes isn't a brilliant film but it is a solid example of the indie spirit that exists outside the realm of Hollywood. I love watching films like Not Quite Lyin' Eyes because they show up-and-coming film folks doing what they love for the love of the craft.
Not Quite Lyin' Eyes centers around an insecure nurse who finds herself taking care of a millionaire military vet who has lost use of both of his legs. Unknown to her, however, she's actually not much more than a pawn in a bigger scheme concocted by her boyfriend. The film had its world premiere at April's Bare Bones International Film Festival, and while the film did pick up several award nominations this time around Phillips and crew went home empty-handed. This isn't particularly surprising, because Not Quite Lyin' Eyes lacks the emotional heft that Remake possessed and which likely made it a more intriguing film at Bare Bones. While Phillips had submitted an earlier version of Not Quite Lyin' Eyes to the Bare Bones folks, in most ways he's actually served up a more involving and satisfying film with a couple of fine performances and improved tech despite actually working with a lower budget this time around.
Donna Marie Beard does a nice job as Brenda, while Ingrid Moss also really shines as Lois Drake. The film's real stand-out this time around may very well be H.T. Altman, whose performance as Connor Long has just the right number of shades without ever losing that compelling factor. Phillips himself acknowledged being a tad nervous about sending his own performance as a paraplegic to a paraplegic film critic, and while his physicalization isn't without its flaws I must admit that I prefer his performance here to his performance in Remake.
The music of Kellie-Lin Knott, a Minneapolis indie artist, helps the film quite a bit along with the instrumental guitar work of Marcus Curtis. D.P. Andy Winters lenses the film with a clarity and non-traditional approach that works well with Phillips' dialogue heavy approach. While there are times I'd like to see more precise edits, the simple truth is that low-budget filmmaking almost always contains challenges when it comes to production values.
Not Quite Lyin' Eyes is available through Underdogs.com and is listed on Amazon for purchase. Phillips does a nice job of keeping his films affordable so that those who wish to support an indie filmmaker can do so pretty comfortably.
Not Quite Lyin' Eyes most assuredly will not work for everyone, most notably those for whom the big budget Hollywood picture is the only frame of reference. It might drive you absolutely bonkers to watch a film where the tech issues are obvious, the sound mix occasionally inconsistent and production values hindered by the fact that the entire film was made for less than James Cameron's toilet paper budget on most films.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit.
Put together by an almost entirely faith-based and faith-inspired cast and crew, Not Quite Lyin' Eyes isn't really a faith-based film so much as it is a film that weaves humanity and the choices we make into real life situations.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic