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Grade: C+A Simple Curve (2005)

Director: Aubrey Nealon

Stars: Kris Lemche, Michael Hogan, Matt Craven

Release Company: Film Movement

MPAA Rating: NR

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Nealon: A Simple Curve

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Shot on location in British Columbia's majestic Slocan Valley, few films can match cinematic splendor of A Simple Curve. Indeed, the landscape itself becomes the most well developed and formidable “character” in Aubrey Nealon's melodrama—aerial shots highlighting magnificent lakes and the magnificent evergreen laden Kootenays will certainly inspire viewers to add this to their travel agendas. Had I seen a brochure for this locale back in the 60s, I wouldn't have had any qualms about relocating to Canada to avoid the draft.

Unfortunately, Nealon's script doesn't equal the film's photography. The script makes for competent television work—easy to follow predictable father-son relationship with parallel characters and situations.

Small town 27-year old entrepreneur Caleb (Kris Lemche with Ginger Snaps and Final Destination 3 on his resume) strives to keep his woodworking shop financially afloat with his idealistic former hippie/draft dodger father Jim (Michael Hogan) as his partner. Although it's evident that Caleb loves his widowed father, it's as obvious as their disjointed conversations that they come from opposite sides of the spectrum. Caleb is the practical soul, valiantly attempting to run the business side of the shop while his dad continually seeks to create art. Never mind that the debts are mounting and a freeloading hippie couple are invited to pitch their tent on their land.

When middle-aged entrepreneur Mathew (Matt Craven) arrives on the scene, Caleb sees an opportunity to strike a deal that will save them from bankruptcy and foreclosure. But it turns out that Jim and Mathew have some negative history between them going back to the free love/draft dodging days when Jim decided to remain in Canada. Sensing the tension, Caleb realizes that he must keep the business deal secret from his father; of course, complications ensue and additional family history is revealed.

There's also a budding love story between Caleb and a young mother named Lee (Pascale Hutton), but she wants assurance that Caleb intends to remain in the Slocan Valley before she considers any long term relationship.

It doesn't take any real genius to figure out most of the plot turns and eventual denouement, so it's to Nealon's credit that he endeavors to fashion a character driven film. With stronger acting, this might have been more successful than it is. Lemche turns in a competent performance, but he simply doesn't have the subtle nuances and depth to bring much range to his part. At least Nealon wisely backs up the camera to film the young actor for his big emotional breakdown scene, allowing wild uncontrolled axe swinging to communicate his turmoil.

But the biggest weakness rests with the paint-by-numbers script that just doesn't trust the audience enough to draw its own conclusions about the life issues portrayed here. Much of the dialogue just seems forced and unnatural—whether it references hippie era nostalgia, modern New Age mentality, or over the top paternity questions. At least the ending contains a measure of welcome ambiguity, rendering A Simple Curve more like an incomplete work in progress—a skeleton of a worthy and earnest idea that just needs more substantial fleshing out.

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