It’s déjà vu all over again: This microbudget indie about a pair of brothers in small-town New Jersey looks great, sports strong performances and doesn’t outstay its welcome. But it’s impossible to shake the feeling that we’ve seen all this before—and better—in the films of Terrence Malick, David Gordon Green, Michael Cuesta and Harmony Korine.
Ryan Jones is superb as Tommy, a 12-year-old brought face-to-face with mortality and grief when a friend mysteriously plummets to his death from a local railway bridge. Meanwhile, older brother Eric (Nathan Varnson) is struggling with a teenage loss of identity and the impending pressures of adulthood.
There’s a pleasing lack of sentimentality that, coupled with those cautious, instinctive central performances, lends the film an air of integrity. The problem is that there’s nothing to back it up: No conclusions are drawn, nor are any real insights offered. A tracking shot of the two boys gliding along rural lanes on the back of a rickety bicycle as ambient electronica swells behind them could have appeared in just about any indie film of the past 20 years. The result is a self-serious, obviously heartfelt mood piece that would have benefited from a bit more clarity and a lot less drifty, by-the-numbers vagueness.
Follow Tom Huddleston on Twitter: @TomHuddleston_