Minnie Driver, Jeremy Renner, Bobby Coleman
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
"Take," the debut feature film from writer/director Charles Oliver, screened immediately following the much more hyped "Turn the River" during the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival.
The immediacy of seeing "Take" right after "Turn the River" only fueled my feeling during "Turn the River" that the film really needed a Minnie Driver calibre of actress to push it over the top.
In "Take," Driver plays Ana, an emotionally paralyzed and grief-stricken mother on her way to confront the killer of her child just before he is to be executed.
While I am seldom a fan of flashback-driven films, Oliver poetically moves the action between past and present as both Ana and Saul (Jeremy Renner, "The Assassination of Jesse James"), the man who killed her child, flash back to the events that have brought them to where they are today.
While the flashbacks of a grief-stricken mother and a soon to be executed child-killer could easily be fodder for histrionics, Oliver's stylized direction and the even-keeled performances of Driver and Renner keep "Take" from ever turning into an over-dramatized weepfest.
Rather than flood the screen with emotions and important scenes, Oliver instead gives us extended glimpses into the lives that have been permanently impacted by a supermarket robbery gone awry.
Ana, we learn, is in a stressed out marriage with a son (Bobby Coleman, "Martian Child") whose learning disability and behavioral issues us straining the family's finances.
Saul, on the other hand, is a perpetual loser whose gambling debts are forcing one bad decision after another including the ill-fated supermarket robbery.
The scene of the supermarket robbery is the film's most heart-wrenching. By the time it occurs, we already know what is to happen. We don't know when or how or even why...but, we know that disaster is about to strike. As the scene unfolds, Tristan Whitman's camera work glides in an almost panoramic style across the supermarket focusing briefly on Ana and her son, Saul, and all whom become paralyzed by the events long after Saul has left with the boy in tow and decisions must be made about what to do next.
Driver is mesmerizing as Ana, both before the killing and in the years that follow. In scene after scene, one can literally feel her processing through every moment leading up to the tragedy that took her child...she lives and breathes every word, every decision, every footstep that took her and her son to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jeremy Renner, as well, unflinchingly portrays a man who refuses to make excuses for the poor decisions he has made and, yet, feels obvious and overwhelming remorse for his actions. While it may be the exception rather than the rule, Saul takes responsibility for his actions without becoming maudlin about it. While it would be easy to watch the scene unfold and, perhaps, understand it as a robbery turned tragic accident, Saul refuses to excuse himself for the decisions he made.
While Oliver's script doesn't necessarily cover a lot of new ground, it is Oliver's words and pacing that turn "Take" into such a noteworthy film. One cannot watch the supermarket robbery unfold without thinking about the words that were spoken and the choices that were made just prior to it. One feels Ana's palpable grief when she realizes that had she relented to one of her son's simple requests, her son would still be alive. It's simple, powerful screenwriting.
Beautifully photographed, sensitively written and featuring a stellar cast, "Take" is easily one of the hidden jewels of the 2008 Indianapolis International Film Festival.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic