A baseball drama about two retired players who continue their “duel” at the mound, while they struggle to find their place in life.
The game that brought them together but life set them apart.
Movies are not always just filled with the glamour and glitz of what life could be, but it is also a great avenue to see how others cope with the darkness, and make it through. A testosterone driven, heartstring pulling, vicious look at the depths of the mid life loneliness, “Duel at the Mound” is an intriguing film.
The film follows two men leading fairly unusual lives. One- Walt- going through the final steps of his divorce and attempting to maintain some semblance of a relationship with his daughter. The other- Mel- fighting against himself while he educates the youth of America. Both men obviously broken, and played extremely well by Michael Hanelin (Walt) and Jonathan Medina (Mel). We never see the men in their prime, only in their somewhat depressed, clinging to youth state, as they gather every so often to maintain their “duel”, which is explained in a poetic form midway through the movie.
While it is not an afterthought, the baseball diamond does not take on a character of its own as many filmmakers would have it do. Instead Director Travis Mills maintains the main attention staying on Walt and Mel as they play tag to get each other to head to the field to play pitch and hit. Even with no dialogue, Mills creates a tone of tension and unease, the audience getting sucked in to the moment with Walt as he tosses the baseball around.
As the film progresses, we only see Walt and Mel devolve further, as everyone has been told “you must hit rock bottom before climbing back up again”. While Walt and Mel are stand up citizens and not complete junkies, they hit their figurative rock bottoms. Walt’s daughter creates a divide between the two of them, and Mel is sent on a spiral of loneliness when he realizes his girlfriend doesn’t trust him.
While the storytelling takes a dedicated viewer to sit through (it is a slow burn), it is well worth it. The cinematography is clean with some unique shots to pull off the baseball scenes. One of the only issues was the sound. While the sound was crisp, clean, and understandable, it sounded too fake. Especially for the bar/ club scenes throughout the movie- and it is understood that Mills made the choices he made for good reasons, but adding in some room tone would add more of a realistic edge to the film.
Would I watch it again? Definitely. And next time, I’ll pull out my Cracker Jacks.