Coming Soon - 90 Feet from Home (2019) - Reviewed


Child abuse, in all of its forms is a malevolent force, a cyclical entity that passes from caretaker to child.  Brett Bentman's latest offering, 90 Feet from Home examines the consequences of dysfunction via an unconventional revenge yarn set in Texas.  Featuring an unforgettable ensemble performance and evocative imagery, this is one of the best films of the year thus far. 

Scott; a former major league baseball player, returns home to settle a score with his abusive stepfather.  What transpires over the next few days is a heartbreaking story about the price of vengeance and the death of innocence.  Adam Hampton's restrained lead performance anchors the rest of the cast.  While his Scott is a tempest of rage, Hampton's ability to harness that fury into something else is astounding.  While his scenes with Shawn Michaels are difficult to watch, it is evident how much Hampton has become the character.  Michaels himself surprises in a complex turn as the abuser from Scott's past. This is a layered performance that is emblematic of Bentman's intent: When it comes to family, nothing is easy.  Villains become pitiable and heroes’ righteous quests becomes suspect.  Bentman's sprawling, slow paced script allows ample time for each of the principals to breath.  The film is in no rush to get to its unexpected conclusion, and the viewer is better off for it, as they are given a window into a world undone by sadness and addiction.

  

The supporting cast includes icon Eric Roberts, Heather Williams, Dean Cain, Bentman collaborator Steven Michael Quezada (Breaking Bad), Thom Hallum, Alexandria DeBerry, and Laura Menzie.  Cain's minor role is perhaps the best ingredient, with Cain giving a career high performance as an outsider with familiar demons.  Heather Williams’ role as the boys’ mother is an essential piece of the wounded framework upon which Bentman builds.  Finally, Thom Hallum's turn as Scott’s police officer brother is one of this small film’s many perfections.  His scenes with Hampton are confusing, angry, and desperate, perfectly mirroring the inner turmoil that lives within each of the boys and their stepfather.  

Marty Menierz's brooding score pulses in the background, slowly building toward a cascade of emotion.  One can't help but think of the Coen's masterwork No Country for Old Men as the characters move through the shadow of an American town in lonely motels and forgotten baseball fields.  Everything is captured by Anthony Gutierrez's somber cinematography.  Many films of this kind opt for endless close ups and claustrophobic angles.  Gutierrez dissents by taking an arm's length approach whenever possible, a technique that reminds the audience that this is a slice of life, a snapshot of pain in a vortex of unpleasant truths.  It is this understanding that can, at times make the film feel raw and unpolished and this is most likely on purpose. Michael Ray Lewis' editing has an unobtrusive quality that perfectly complements Bentman's style, something that has grown with each of his pictures.  



Ultimately, what makes 90 Feet from Home so special is its lack of flash.  This is story based on horrific true events and while nothing is held back, nothing is exploited either.  The cast, while filled with veterans, never outshines one another and every happens as if it is part of an elegant dance, made possible through Bentman’s obvious emotional investment in the story.  Hopefully coming soon to the theater or digital on demand, this is a remarkable journey that is not to be missed.  While certain expectations are subverted, they only enhance the experience by keeping everything grounded.  The end result is a sobering reminder that while abuse; in all its forms, shapes its victims it does not control them.  

--Kyle Jonathan