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The Independent Critic

Margo Martindale, Hanna Hall, Adam Scarimbolo, Jim Dougherty, LaDonna Pettijohn, Raymond Kester and Mark A. Nash
Zack Parker
Brandon Owens, Zack Parker
est. 95 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures (DVD)


 "Scalene" Review 
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The interior angles of a Scalene Triangle are always different, a point of reference to contemplate after absorbing director Zack Parker's self-defined "perceptual thriller" called, rather appropriately, Scalene.

In Scalene, Parker tells the story of one event through the lenses of the three individuals most centrally involved in its unfolding.

Jakob Trimble (Adam Scarimbolo, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) is a 26-year-old young man whose anoxic brain injury at the age of 12 has left him dependent upon the care of his loving yet increasingly frazzled mother, Janice (Margo Martindale, Win Win & Secretarian). Desperate for a break, Janice hires a local college student to provide a few hours of caregiving a week. 21-year-old Paige (Hanna Hall, Forrest Gump & The Virgin Suicides) starts out mostly interested in gaining some precious human services experience for her Social Work graduate school application, but before long she finds herself increasingly intrigued by this young man and his world of silence.

Scalene opens with a harrowing scene that sets the tone for the rest of the film, a film that remains unsettled and emotionally jarring throughout its 95-minute running time. What we know from the outset is this - There is an allegation of sexual assault with an abundance of evidence threatening to break up the Trimble household.

Could this seemingly innocent, nonverbal young man have brutally raped his beautiful young caregiver?

There are three sides to the story and what you believe may very well depend upon what you perceive.

What is absolutely certain in Scalene is that Zack Parker has assembled a stellar ensemble cast led by a mind-blowing performance from recent Emmy Award winner Margo Martindale. Martindale has been a Hollywood fixture since a TV movie appearance in 1988, with a steady stream of appearances in both television and film. A respected character actress, Martindale has never really gotten her just desserts despite a slew of terrific performances - at least until she picked up this year's Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Justified. Martindale's performance here as Janice runs across the spectrum of human emotion as she fully embodies all the pain, heartache, love, dedication and moments of complete freak out that are involved when one parents a child with special needs. Martindale seemingly holds nothing back with her character, yet it's never completely apparent what's going on with her.

Is Janice an extremely devoted yet stressed out parent?

Has Janice's stress overwhelmed her and turned her into a mini-monster?

Is she completely insane?

If Martindale knows, she's not telling and the final result is one of the most intriguingly complex and captivating characters on the big screen this year.

Strangely enough, that same level of complexity and intrigue applies to Hanna Hall's quieter yet no less layered performance as the wide-eyed college student who finds herself increasingly drawn into the unspoken mysteries of Jakob's life. At first glance, Paige seems completely and utterly normal despite her obviously being sheltered by her protective family. As Paige's perception of Jakob's reality begins to unfold, however, there begin to appear cracks in Paige's facade of normalcy. It's not just what she perceives that becomes disturbing, but how she processes the information and, ultimately, how she chooses to act on it. Hall, whom this critic raved about in the short film The Truth About Faces, may seem normal but she's in many ways just as heartbreaking as Janice.

Then, there's Jakob. While it's possible to argue some of the symptomatology that Parker and his co-screenwriter Brandon Owens attribute to Jakob's Anoxic Brain Injury, there's still no denying that Adam Scarimbolo's performance is utterly mesmerizing. Without ever speaking a word, Scarimbolo brings the young man to life and creates within him a richly developed character that will stay with you long after the closing credits have rolled. The beauty of Scarimbolo's performance is that it's so fully alive that it becomes easy to understand exactly why Janice remains so protective of him and Paige becomes so deeply involved and committed. Jakob may be silent, but his very presence speaks volumes.

Production credits for this low budget indie being distributed by Along the Tracks are terrific across the board, with regular Parker collaborator The Newton Brothers contributing a mood enhancing score while D.P. Jim Timperman's camera work illuminating both the film's suspense and its moments of tremendous intimacy. While one always expects a few tech issues in these lower budget indies, kudos to Parker for keeping any obvious concerns to a bare minimum with almost nothing that distracts from the film's intensity and emotional impact.

Scalene won the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature at the 2011 Dances With Films and was seen at Indiana's own Homegrown Hoosier Film Festival spotlighting top notch films with Indiana connections. Parker was born in Richmond, Indiana and despite living out in L.A. now continues to return to the Midwest for the majority of his film projects. Scalene was filmed in location in East Central Indiana with locations in Richmond, Centerville and Connersville.

For more information on Scalene, visit the film's Facebook page. Scalene is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Breaking Glass Pictures.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic