In Kyle Ham's award-winning narrative feature and Indiana made film Reparation, Bob Stevens (Marc Menchaca, television's Inside Amy Schumer) is an Indiana farmer living with a three-year hole in his memory and a raging case of Dissociative Disorder. When a mysterious stranger, Jerome Kellar (Jon Huertas, television's Castle), claims to have been his best friend in the Air Force Police, Bob's fractured yet largely peaceful world starts to unravel and his family gets caught up in the subsequent storm including, most notably, his eight-year-old daughter, Charlotte (Dale Dye Thomas), who seems to have inherited her father's missing years.
Confused? Yeah, you will be. You'll also be captivated by this psychological thriller that has proven to be wildly popular on the film festival circuit with prizes at the Sedona International Film Festival (Audience Choice, Best Feature Drama), Austin Film Festival (Audience Award), Breckenridge Film Festival (Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Child Actress and Best Supporting Actor), Santa Fe Film Festival (Best Film), Julien Dubuque International Film Festival (Best Narrative Feature), River's Edge International Film Festival (Best Narrative Feature) and now the Best American Spectrum Feature prize at Indy Film Fest here in Indianapolis.
Tackling such a multi-layered and complex story with your feature film directorial debut is absurd, but director and co-writer Kyle Hamm pulls it off with a confidence and patience far transcending what most would expect from a relative newbie. An Oklahoma native who studied theatre and film at Indiana's Depauw University, Ham has crafted a suspenseful and thrilling film with well developed characters and an atmosphere that draws you into their world.
Charlotte, who is played by the simply outstanding Dale Dye Thomas, is central to everything that unfolds here and essentially serves as the soul of the film and the soul of all that unfolds. It's pretty amazing to discover that Reparation is Thomas's film debut.
The two co-leads, Marc Menchaca and Jon Huertas, are certainly not newcomers to film or television and both serve up equally revelatory performances. Menchaca's Bob Stevens runs the gamut of emotions and soars in the film's more challenging scenes, while Huertas serves up a tour-de-force performance that is both charismatic and uncomfortable. As Bob's wife, Virginia Newcomb takes what could have easily been turned into a one-note role and fleshes out a performance that is finely nuanced, intelligent and heart-centered. As a supporting player, Brody Behr also gives a fine performance as Ralph, whose existence is far more complex than should be explained in this review yet is wonderfully realized by the gifted young actor.
Reparation unfolds patiently and it's this directorial patience that gives us the time we need to become involved in each character's life and prepares for everything else that's going to unfold by film's end. The film was shot entirely in Putnam County, Indiana, an area marked by farm land and Greencastle's Depauw University. This is important because, well, the film has sort of a quieter approach even in its most serious scenes and largely avoids the hyped up histrionics we often find in this kind of psychological thriller. Ham, who is now based in the Baltimore/DC area, manages multiple threads with a quiet confidence that almost makes you forget just how much is going on here.
Jay Silver's lensing is intimate when it needs to be, relaxed and warm at times and, as well, taut and tight in all the right ways. Devan Yanik's original music companions the film quite nicely, while G. Duane Skoog's production design also helps balance, and the film relies greatly on balance, to near perfection.
It's not surprising that Reparation has proven to be popular on the film fest circuit as its intelligent script, co-penned by Ham and Steve Timm, is the kind of low-budget indie gem that film festival audiences adore. Reparation is screening twice during Indy Film Fest - on July 18th at 9:15pm at Indianapolis Museum of Art's Toby Theatre and again on July 21st at 12:45pm also at the Toby. For more information on the film or for tickets, visit the Indy Film Fest website.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic