When it comes to independent films, as my experience has taught me, you get a lot of good and you can get a lot of bad. I’ve been lucky so far that with my limited experience when it comes to receiving independents for my reviewing pleasure that I haven’t actually come across any stinkers so far – but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep my eye on IFC and have my mind blown with pretension every once in a while. So far I count myself as a pretty lucky guy, receiving such works as Expiration (a Canadian based drama you can find reviewed on my website if you look hard enough, shameless plug) and now Green Eyes for Anastice. With a low budget first time film crew, it seems you have one of two options to follow through with. Either go out, guns blazing, tackling the world and dealing with either the most difficult material possible or just shooting for the sky and making the film you want to make despite all the difficulties – OR you’re the type to make another genre flick everyone forgets about after watching, or should I say that everyone prays they can forget after watching. Seriously guys, serial killers stalking teenage girls and keg toting frat boys is sadly what we call hackneyed material; just a word of warning for any young filmmakers who might stumble upon this. So, what route did Michael R. Steinbeck and Nicholas Richards take? Well, let’s just say there are no masked killers hunting buxom co-eds during the course of this film… as much as that may disappoint some of my readers. I can only imagine that these guys are either the types to go through with their plans without contemplating the facts and means of what they need to do; or quite simply, and forgive me for being brash, they just have the biggest balls I’ve seen from independent filmmakers in a while. I could be wrong, it’s just me, but putting myself in the place of an independent filmmaker with a likely limited budget and making my first feature length film – I see myself playing the safe game. Wearing the padding, using the kiddie foam-ball instead of the hard painful one – and overall trying to hide any weak points in my game whatsoever. Probably shoot a film about some internet geek who sits around typing at his computer whenever he’s not at work all day; something I know well and won’t require a lot out of me. Taking the imagination out of it. This is actually advice I read from a lot of those guys who give scriptwriting advice around the web and such; I wonder how many of those guys would advise you to make a sci-fi tinged time travelling film full of all kinds of special FX shots and tricky camera effects, that deals exclusively with a lot of thought provoking questions about relationships and is a completely emotional experience. I can’t imagine many. So, if the odds really were stacked against these guys as I’m thinking they probably were, all I can do is commend them because they turned out one really special film for a first time effort.
Even when reading the synopsis for the feature, a film about a man travelling with a time machine to save his dead wife, it just seems like a large project. Not exactly material you’re going to expect to be given justice in the digital format without ILM providing the FX and Spielberg in the Producer’s chair. Yet, here it is and here I am. GEA may not have the budget of such gigantic films out there; but it more than makes up for that in heart and innovative ideas – something Hollywood appears to have given up on long ago. For those who don’t know, the basic plot tells the tale of Adam – a young man, fresh into his marriage with the woman he loves (a lovely young woman named Anastice, as the title may lead you to believe), who is taken from him after she is killed in a hit and run. He stumbles through life for around a year unable to cope with her being gone, taking to drinking and generally just moping around. Things seem to get worse when he finds his father has been picked up at the hospital for loitering and is diagnosed with alzheimer disease. The doctor recommends Adam’s father be treated, but the only way he can afford the treatment is to sell his father’s home and so he does. Adam then begins moving all of his father’s old things into his own home; but ultimately stumbles upon one very interesting possession. A clear ball-like object; encasing assorted gears, gyros, clocks, knobs and buttons. On one side is the current date, and being that Adam’s father has no answers since he barely remembers even his own son, Adam begins with an experiment. Changing the date on the ball from the current date, to the day when his wife was struck down. As you might now expect; this isn’t just your average clear sphere, but a time machine. What then begins is a snowball of things that escalate and pile upon each other. Will Adam save his wife, will their life be everything they always wanted and will Adam have the strength to just let things go and will he let the chips fall where they may? GEA builds upon that final question all the way through and does everything in it’s powers to make you think, think and think. Not just about how banana peels can drive a flux capacitor, but about real questions for each and every one of us. For those of us in relationships, you may find the film ringing true in the details involving the drama amidst Adam’s relationship and all the things we do for those we love – and just how tempting it would be to give that person everything they ever wanted – and what is the difference between what we need and what we want. It isn’t all philosophy all the way around; but Green Eyes will make you think and as the conclusion comes around, that will be all you can do. So many questions and ideas are thrown about in those final minutes that my brain was in a whirlwind and although some audiences might ask for a clearer description of events – I like to think that with more viewings, more possibilities will open to me. The imagination and ideas put to use in the film are just amazing, particularly the idea that if we travel back and forth through time it’s not even so much the problems that will arise from our actions (like leaving yourself a stockpile of money) that really trouble the travellers – it’s their memories. The idea that once you travel back and forth through time, that your memories of the past as you know are at once in combat with your new set of memories from the past that you helped to change to create your current present. See, it gets confusing, but give the flick a whirl and see if it at least isn’t worth giving a shot. The film overall far succeeded my highest hopes – and that’s no hype.
So yes, I think it’s fair to go out on a limb and say I enjoyed the film and I look forward to anything that might come from these young filmmakers in the future. Sure, some performances could have used some sharpening – but overall I think for a production of this magnitude most everyone really shined in their parts. Nicholas Richards and Samantha Porps both did a wonderful job with their performances, making it believable for the audience that these two really are married and that they really do love one another. I’m not going to go comparing the performances here to those of On The Waterfront or anything like that; but this sure isn’t Troma and these kids sure did believe in what they were doing and I think they have a lot to be proud of. Respect for Richards for both putting in a relaxed and nice performance in the lead as well as giving the film some very nice visuals as the director of photography – and he really did do a nice job and gave the film a very loose feel but still managed some very interesting lighting and shots. Respect to Samantha Porps for such a cute little Wisconsin accent too! Okay, I kid, but it is a nice accent and she did a great job in the film – especially when she had to morph her character back and forth into something totally different on several occasions. You can’t ask for much more out of an actress and I wish the best for all of these talents. I see on the Drop Shadow Productions website that they already have future projects getting ready between both Richards and Steinbeck and I just hope I can catch a glimpse of these films as well when they come along. Thank you to Michael R. Steinbeck and the whole production crew for the film and Drop Shadow Productions for introducing me to their film, I’m sure the world will be seeing more of them in the future.