Based on a novel by Richard Laskowski, Javier Reyna's Regionrat centers around Ray (Connor Williams), an underachieving teenager whose attempt to escape to Seattle fails miserably after six months and he finds himself high tailin' it back to his hometown in an area of Northwest Indiana known as "the region."
A former Andrean High School student, Laskowski based the book on the true story of of a tragic death that ripped apart a group of Northwest Indiana friends and the subsequent blame and guilt that kept the group from ever uniting again.
The movie Regionrat depends almost entirely on the key performance of Ray, whose return to the Region drags him back into all the stuff that he wanted to get away from yet finds himself once again drawn into his old friends and his old habits. Connor Williams (American Nobody) gives a revelatory performance as Ray, infusing the young man with just a sliver of light that keeps trying to squeeze through his seemingly insurmountable darkness. It's a relaxed, natural performance that serves as the glue that holds the entire film together.
This is not to say, however, that the rest of the film's ensemble cast lags behind. That's far from the truth. Natassia Halabi also shines as Erin, while Nova Gaver's Jolene is equally memorable. From the major parts to the bit parts, Reyna has cast his film well.
Regionrat is already proving to be quite successful on the film festival circuit with several prizes at a number of fests including Barcelona Planet Film Festival (Best Narrative Feature), Chandler International Film Festival (Best Feature Film), Festigious International Film Festival (Honorable Mention, Best Director and Jury Prizes for Best Cinematographer, Best Actor, Best Ensemble, and Best Feature), London Independent Film Awards (Best Actor) and others. The film is screening this week in Indianapolis's Indy Film Fest hosted at Newfields in Midtown Indy.
Carlos M. Jimenez's lensing is nothing short of remarkable, low budget or not, while Marcus Trumpp's original score is an absolute standout throughout the film. Special kudos must be given to Hyrum Judkins for an absolutely stellar production design.
While not necessarily a tribute to the area where he lived (he graduated from Griffith High School), Laskowski also took great care to not necessarily bash the Region either. Reyna takes similar care to respect both the Region and the people who live there while acknowledging difficult truths and challenging choices. Reyna, a former Indianapolis resident, has crafted an involving, intelligent film that features characters you become invested in even as they make choice after choice that you know can't possibly end well.
Yet, there is hope and Regionrat never loses sight of that.
For more information on Regionrat, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits. For more information on Indy Film Fest, visit the Indy Film Fest website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic