Robert Jury's Working Man is a working class film about a working class kind of a guy, Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety, Charlie Wilson's War, Flight), who has spent his entire adult life working in the factory of a small rust belt town. Of course, we've learned by now that loyalty won't get you anywhere when corporate interests takeover and we've seen enough of these types of films to know that something not so great is about to happen.
The last factory in town, it's not long before it goes the way of the others.
Allery tries to adjust to life at home, but work was his sanctuary and much to the dismay of his loyal but misunderstanding wife Iola (Talia Shire, Rocky) he gets up one day and quietly announces "I'm going to work."
And so he does.
Allery is a man who's long been forgotten, a reclusive guy whose work has been his life and since his son's suicide allowed him to channel his complicated grief somewhere. Anywhere.
Unexpectedly, Allery forms an uneasy alliance with Walter (Billy Brown, How to Get Away With Murder), and the two inch their way toward an allied effort that gains steam and community support in an effort to get the powers to be to revive the defunct factory. As community support grows, the former corporate bosses plot for ways to sabotage their growing efforts and Allery is forced to come face-to-face with his own personal demons if he's to grow into the one thing he never thought he could be - a leader.
Winner of Best Narrative Feature at SCAD Savannah Film Festival and Kansas City International Film Festival along with Best Ensemble at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Working Man had a lengthy festival run before being picked up by indie distributor Brainstorm Media for its VOD release that kicks off on May 5th. Reuniting Talia Shire, Academy Award nominee for Rocky, with her Rocky editors Richard and Morgan Halsey, Working Man has a similar feeling and sense of faith in the miracle of the underdog.
The directorial debut by Jury, Working Man is a low-key gentle whisper of a film, a film that digs deeply yet does so without the usual histrionics we so often see with this type of film. Delving into the very real life experiences of loss, grief, healing, and the universality of love, Working Man is an ideal film to watch as we sit in our homes hunkered down and hoping that we can somehow rise above COVID-19 and heal our communities both physically and economically. Peter Gerety gives a true gem of a performance here as Allery, embodying a man whose entire being radiates grief and resignaton yet a man who inch by inch transforms himself over the course of the film. It's a terrific, understated yet tremendously effective performance.
Talia Shire is similarly strong. Early on, the chemistry between Allery and Iola feels fragile and uncertain yet it's an utterly powerful experience to watch both Shire and Gerety re-assemble that chemistry little by little. Shire works wonders here.
Billy Brown also shines as Walter, a more passionate sort of guy whose motives aren't clear early on and who grows in unexpected ways by film's end.
Fort Lauderdale definitely had it correct - this is an absolutely tremendous ensemble effort.
Piero Basso's lensing is warm and natural throughout, capturing both intimacy and tension as needed. The original score by David Gonzalez is a sparse, emotionally impactful accompaniment that matches the film's dramatic rhythms perfectly. The aforementioned editorial work is spot-on, especially in building the film's more tense moments. Kudos must also be given to Sarah Sharp for an effective, natural production design and to Halley Sharp for costume design.
Films like Working Man too often get left behind, their honest storytelling and celebration of the mundane at odds with Hollywood's tendency toward heightened dramatics and unnecessary conflicts. The conflicts in Working Man serve the story rather than create the story. Just like Allery himself, Working Man deserves to be celebrated.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic