Dry River Road


Dry River Road (2009) is a 13 min short directed by newcomer Rory Haines in which he attempts to analyse some of the issues surrounding modern US Army Vets.

Justin Paul Kahn plays Leo Whitlock, an Iraq war veteran down on luck and desperately seeking work and reconciliation with his wife and son. Living out of his car and washing in a gas station’s toilet, the film follows Leo in what will be his defining crack at assimilating back into society that has forgotten him.

As an ex-soldier ill-equipped to do anything but kill, the best he can muster is an embarrassing bid to convince the Arabic owner of the gas station to let him clean the toilets in which he cleans himself; and it is during this ‘interview’ that Leo’s life will finally change.

The cinematography is the most impressive aspect about Dry River Road, the long takes and transactions between the limited spaces that Leo occupies are seamless and fluid and the handheld camera does its’ job in bringing the prerequisite documentary feel.

What is interesting about Dry River Road isn’t what is said, but what is suggested by Haines. The subtle hints presented by the director imply some more complicated is going on here and this may not be the All-American piece of cinema that is expected. The viewer is unsure of the reasons for Leo’s departure from the US army or in fact the reasons he is separated from the mother of his child, but it implies through his behaviour and interactions that his plight is perhaps some of his own doing.

However impressive the long takes are, Justin Paul Kahn performance seems to suffer somewhat with all the screen time he’s given and is uneven and slightly overacted in parts. Though he is onscreen for the entire duration of the 13mins that the film runs he lacks any real magnetism or even sympathy.

The overall impression from Haines work is that he is a man who began with clear intentions, the script, by Sohrab Noshirvani, isn’t particularly inventive or imaginative when taken on its basic merits, but on a whole works as a short piece of cinema. Though, rather than having something to say about society’s treatment of its’ ex-military it misses out because it lack of imagination or clear message. The viewer can only guess whether this is a man who has been driven to despair or has had it thrust upon him…

All in all, the simple fact that this is a short film does the picture harm. The aspects of the back-story that are unexplored leave the viewer without a definitive message and instead with a culmination of unfortunate circumstances.

Whilst this is a solid enough film and shows promise in its direction, ultimately it leaves the viewer with too many unanswered questions.


About craig shaw

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