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The Independent Critic

Kevin Pinassi, Rachel Marie Lewis, Marcel Torres
Erik Peter Carlson
104 Mins.
Indie Rights

 "Transatlantic Coffee" Not Quite My Cup of Tea 
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Sometimes, it really is about the destination.

There were moments while watching writer/director J. Erik Carlson's intelligent and thought-provoking Transatlantic Coffee that I found myself tempted to hit the ole' "stop" button and give up on the film. It's not what I'd call an "entertaining" film as much as it is a challenging film that fits quite well within the world of indie cinema. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that a good majority of mainstream America would hate this film, not so much because it does occasionally meander too much and suffers at times from its status as a lower budgeted film but because it's the kind of film that doesn't compromise Carlson's vision for the sake of making it more palatable.

I have to be honest. Transatlantic Coffee wasn't even remotely what I expected from the film. While that's not particularly a bad thing, it does make for an interesting challenge for those who are tasked with marketing the film as it ventures out into theatrical and online distribution formats. The film is a love story, of sorts, that's inspired by a true story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl.

Boy is a 41-year-old clown. Girl is a teenaged stripper from London.

You know? The usual love story.

Alex (Kevin Pinassi) is battling the bleakness of his life, a bleakness that is given a certain brightness when Mandie (Rachel Marie Lewis) enters it. Despite their apparent differences, the two embrace each other for who they are ... at least until Alex's secret trauma bubbles to the surface and the film spirals into an ending that, for me, made all the frustrations along the journey worthwhile.

Transatlantic Coffee is prime festival material, its thoughtful and uncompromising material sure to please a good number of those who don't just watch films but digest them. D.P. Dan Witrock's cinematography is outstanding, offering the film a look at times innocent, at times grim, at times humorous and sometimes just downright baffling. This is the kind of film that you can't really turn away from without missing something, and Witrock's camera work does a terrific job of serving as a companion and guide for the film's many layers. The same is true for the production design of David Dean Ebert, which affords the film a genuineness that helps keep even the most resistant moviegoer invested in the characters.

The film was nominated for several prizes at Dances With Films and Park City Film Music Festival, and Carlson himself has been a tireless advocate for the film resulting in dozens of reviews in a world where even getting a couple reviews can be challenging for an independent film. The film picked up a Best Picture prize at L.A.'s New Wave International Film Festival. Transatlantic Coffee is currently available through Amazon On Demand and other online outlets.

In an offbeat way, Transatlantic Coffee brings to mind Wade Roberts' Little Big Top, a delightful little indie film from a few years back starring Sid Haig as a clown struggling to find what amounts to his comic mojo. While the themes are different in focus, this film really blossoms when Mandie enterts the picture, however, that's as much because Rachel Marie Lewis is an absolute delight.

Transatlantic Coffee goes places you don't expect it to go, while having the cinematic balls to remain committed to Carlson's obviously disciplined vision. While this film isn't necessarily a film for a wider audience, for those who give it a chance and who can appreciate truly indie cinema the reward will be a film that will have you thinking about it long after the closing credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 
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