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The Independent Critic

Joel Bissonnette, Keylor Leigh, April Marshall-Miller, Olivia May
Michael Stevantoni
Michael Stevantoni (Screenplay), Tim Rousseau (Screenplay), George McCormick (Based on Book By)
80 Mins.
Cinema Epoch


 "Salton Sea" Heads for VOD Release in July 2019 
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In Michael Stevantoni's upcoming VOD release from Cinema Epoch Salton Sea, Joel Bissonnette stars as Brian, a disenfranchised guy whose mid-life crisis seems to have arrived a bit early and whose feeling of being stuck is like a slowly spreading infection impacting every corner of his existence. There's not a lot of hope contained within, so the distant light offered by a work promotion and cross-country location is kind of like that beacon you simply can't resist. 

Unfortunately for Brian, Ramona (Keylor Leigh) can resist it. Whatever glimmer of hope Brian has in his eyes is largely nonexistent for Ramona, who seems particularly aware that her marriage has grown stale and she seems uninvested in trying to make it all work for her and her daughter, Judith (April Marshall-Miller). Hoping to convince her, Brian takes the family on a vacation to the faded resort town where they once honeymooned, the dried up and burned out area called Salton Sea that isn't that far removed from the state of their individual lives and their marriage. 

Tom Taugher's lensing practically makes Salton Sea worth all by itself, so beautifully capturing an area once so full of promise and now largely dismissed as a toxic wasteland largely devoid of humanity except for the most persevering of souls or simply those with no other options. This is not to say, at all, that the film itself isn't worth watching. Bissonnette makes for a compelling figure as Brian, embodying all his world weariness yet also capturing nicely that glimmer of hope and that guy who wants to believe in his goodness and that his marriage can be saved. While Bissonnette's Brian mines layers of complexity, Keylor Leigh's Ramona is perhaps the more resigned of the two. She seems resigned to the fact that no matter how hard he tries Brian will never be the husband she wanted and expected him to be, a fact that has also resigned her to the fact that this intended lifetime commitment may not be worth the continued investment. 

The brilliance of Salton Sea is that it for the most part avoids the cliche's and easy answers we so often find in this kind of film. Salton Sea isn't so much about finding hope or light as it is what happens to us when there's no hope to be found. 

What do we do next?

With strong supporting performances by April Marshall-Miller along with Olivia May as a local bar owner who gets a little too much of Brian's attention, Salton Sea is a quietly involving indie drama that deserves the prizes it has picked up at the Nacogdoches Film Festival (Best Feature) and Blow-Up Chicago International Arthouse Film Fest (Best Actor for Bissonnette; Best Feature). 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic