VOD Releases: Mommy's Box - Reviewed

In limited theaters and VOD 9/30
Every indie filmmaker has to start somewhere.  Some of the greats, such as Richard Linklater or Kevin Smith, debuted with films that examined the quirky but interesting random folks in the world around them.  However, other such as Edward Burns or Zach Braff didn’t have to go far to find their inspiration; in fact, they didn’t even have to leave their own houses.  The Brothers McMullen and Garden State are two of many indie touchstones that touch on the often strenuous but always binding family dynamic.  Obviously inspired by these filmmakerrs is writer/director/actor Johnny Greenlaw, who brings this aesthetic to his new film Mommy’s Box.

Mommy’s Box covers some pretty well-tread indie territory.  Music producer Nick (Greenlaw) returns to his hometown after the death of his mother and is forced to confront his family’s difficult past.  While he’s there he falls for a beautiful singer named Jordana (Carly Brooke) with whom he shares a surprising connection.  If that sounds like Edward Burns/Zach Braff territory, well, that’s pretty much what it is to an often predictable degree.  Or at least that’s what most of it is.  Outside of the main storyline itself things get a bit fuzzy.  Seemingly major plot threads are abandoned, shocking reveals fall flat.  Things that should have been more important just end up being simple distractions from the ho-hum story at its core.

Screenplay problems aside, major though they may be, there are flashes of real talent here.  Greenlaw makes the bold move of casting himself as the protagonist of the film he wrote and directed, but he makes it work.  In fact, the film as a whole is well-acted, elevated above the tired indie tropes by good-to-very-good performances by its impressive cast.  The film has a polished look that one doesn’t often see in films of this caliber.  Music is important to the story, and Paulo Coelho (who also appears in the film as a musician named Paulo) provides a sparse acoustic score that fits the film’s melancholy like a glove.

What's in the box! What's in the box!

For all of the things that are good about Mommy’s Box, it’s a shame that where it lacks most is the story.  This is Greenlaw’s second film, and he shows a lot of potential here as a filmmaker.  He knows how to make a movie look and sound good, and direct interesting and compelling performances out of his cast.  Mommy’s Box is unfortunately either too formulaic or too confusing to truly be a success.  But it’s not difficult to believe that better things are in store for Johnny Greenlaw in the future.

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-Mike Stec