One of the more unusual indies, or at least one of the more unusual competent indies, that I've had the privilege to review, Young Islands
is an 82-minute black-and-white feature written and directed by Kevin Chenault and distributed for DVD by Gulcher Records, an indie record label now crossing over into the dark side of cinema.
Corey (newcomer Steven Hamilton) is a teenager whose parents are splitting up after his father suffered a heart attack while pursuing an adulterous affair. With a few weeks of summer remaining, Corey is trying to deal with life in his small midwestern town and a strained friendship with his best friend, Kenny (Joseph Dodd).
While the description definitely fits Young Islands,
it's worth noting that the film far from fits your typical Hollywood or even indie fare with its quirky, vignette-oriented approach to telling its story and its almost meditative approach that emphasizes mood and atmosphere rather than excessive dialogue and unnecessary action. Featuring an abundance of high quality indie music from artists like Gizmo, Bon Vivants, Angel Corpus Christi Hugh Cornwell, Young Islands
is, in all honesty, one of the most surprisingly entertaining films I've caught this year.
At times, Young Islands
feels like a bit of a Todd Solondz film with its quirky devotion to eccentric characters. Yet, it doesn't really seem like Chenault sees his characters as eccentric as much as he simply recognizes there's a bunch of f***ed up folks around us and most of them are pretty darn interesting.
Indeed, they are.
There's an overriding somber tone to Young Islands,
but the film itself is never really depressing. While the film may qualify as a bit on the down low, it feels authentic throughout and, in fact, Chenault nicely captures the quirks and ordinariness of life in a small midwestern town.
The entire ensemble cast is solid throughout, with special kudos for the leading duo of Joseph Dodd and Steven Hamilton along with a fine performance from Sarah Beaven. Chenault, an filmmaker from Southern Indiana, clearly has a strong visual eye, enough integrity not to sell out and standard cinematic teen angst crap and absolutely beautifully utilizes what feels like an almost saturated, textured b&w photography to sell his story.
While Young Islands
is now available on DVD through Gulcher records, Chenault continues to explore festival opportunities along with public screenings. The film's tone and occasionally harsh language may limit its more mainstream possibilities, but Young Islands
would be a great selection for late night slots at indie and underground film festivals.
For more information on Young Islands,
visit the Young Islands website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic