Trail of Crumbs (2008) – By Cary Conley

Calvin Miller (Robert McAtee) is trying to pick up the pieces of his life. Divorced, jobless, and bankrupt, his last remaining relative–his grandmother–dies. Using his inheritance money, he decides to purchase a small home in the northeastern U.S. Having his grandmother’s few remaining possessions shipped to his new home, he prepares to move from Louisville, Kentucky, to Vermont to start his life over again. In walks the attractive and mesmerizing Wendy (Molly Leland), who claims to be a friend of Calvin’s grandmother. The two lost souls strike up an immediate friendship and both end up traveling to Vermont to start over again. But little does Calvin know that Wendy has ulterior motives and their chance encounter wasn’t chance at all. The two embark on an adventure across the eastern United States that Calvin could never have dreamed of. Along the way he falls in love with Molly, helps her break into an office building, and even robs a man at gunpoint before discovering Molly’s betrayal of his trust. Also along the way, Calvin finds his self-confidence again and redevelops a calmness in his life that had been missing for some time.

Trail of Crumbs is an interesting and unique character drama. At times, especially during the beginning of the film, the scenes are choppy and don’t fit perfectly together, a completely intentional choice by director Robert McAtee. The result is a slightly fractured feel much like one might have as one tries to follow an incomplete trail of crumbs. Another analogy is the way a jigsaw puzzle is worked: at first you might not see the entire picture and you might be unsure that all the pieces might fit, but the more the puzzle comes together, the clearer the picture is. The beginning of the film is disjointed and gave me a feeling of being off-kilter, but as the narrative begins to gather steam, the film smooths out and I found myself deeply involved in the characters’ stories.

Similar to an Alfred Hitchcock film, the viewer knows well before the characters what is driving the story, so there is some tension that is created as we watch the story unfold and wait to see how the characters will deal with their inevitable discoveries. But this isn’t really a mystery film like Hitchcock made; rather it is a quiet, quirky, sometimes funny and sometimes introspective meditation about Calvin Miller and the changes he goes through during a time of crisis in his life.

The film is framed around Calvin’s narration of the story as he talks with his caregiver who is herself having a crisis. (As an aside, Calvin has somehow broken both legs, which is never addressed during the film–and doesn’t need to be–which necessitates his use of a caregiver.) The irony here is that Calvin’s caregiver has had a brief affair and doesn’t know how to deal with the fallout and asks Calvin if he has ever had an affair. Answering in the affirmative, he begins a remarkable story about his adventures with Molly, all of which might not have occurred if he had not strayed from his marriage. But the ultimate message is that while you might have to briefly weather the storm, you can find peace when it’s all said and done.

The acting is very strong, as is the writing of McAtee and Leland, who co-wrote the script. The cinematography is also very good, with beautiful winter scenery ranging from Louisville to Vermont. There are several interesting scenes that are punctuated by rapid cuts instead of time-lapse photography, for instance, Calvin and Molly’s first sunrise together. Instead of using the tried-and-true method of time-lapse over a long period of time, the scene has a number of quick cuts that help the film progress through the sunrise. This reminds the viewer that these characters are on a quest and that life isn’t always smooth–it’s more like following a trail where some of the clues are missing. The soundtrack is also excellent and suits the film perfectly.

Trail of Crumbs is a very good film and deserves to be seen. Right now it is playing the film festival circuit, but it was recently released on iTunes, so cruise on over and download this fun, nifty little film and enjoy.