And who is Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn)? He’s a pushing-60 Australian expat, divorced, a bit of a loner and sporadically in touch with his children, who live a coast away. Bonner has recently moved to Reno to work with a Christian charity that helps ex-convicts reenter society; it’s clear he has a world-weary skepticism, bordering on contempt, about the faith-based nature of his work. Despite his rough edges, it’s also evident he has an innate decency—a desire to help people at least take steps in a better direction—that he puts into practice after getting cautiously chummy with just-released felon Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette), who’s hoping to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
That may sound like a scenario you’ve seen plenty of times: the ol’ two-men-form-an-unlikely-friendship spiel. Yet one of the biggest accomplishments of Chad Hartigan’s nearly note-perfect feature is the way it continually avoids such modest-indie-film pitfalls. Much of it has to do with the casting of Eenhoorn, whose every gesture seems informed by genuine life experience as opposed to a screenwriter’s contrivance. (The actor’s youthful years as a rock musician are even drawn on in a beautiful scene in which Bonner dances wistfully to an 8-track recording by Eenhoorn’s former band, Kopyright.) But Hartigan must be commended too, for allowing Bonner and Holloway’s tentative rapport to dictate the drama rather than impose insights where they haven’t been earned. Patience is privileged, nothing is forced, and by the end of this quietly devastating character study, the ordinary has become extraordinary.
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