Cinematic Releases: Regionrat (2018) - Reviewed

With an innumerable amount of coming of age stories in modern cinema, there must be something exceedingly special or unique about a film to make it stand out among the masses. Sometimes it’s silliness; the gross out jokes and violated apple pies draw the crowd in and keeps them laughing, making them feel better about their own ill-advised transgressions. Other times it’s the heart of the story itself; the writer tackles the subject in such a way that the audience has no choice to raptly follow along, empathizing and finding parts of themselves buried among the cast. Javier Reyna’s screen adaptation of Richard Laskowski’s 2006 novel, both titled Regionrat, sets itself apart from the pack with a lead performance by Connor Williams that is nothing short of award worthy.

Williams, playing the titular rat, Ray, is simply stunning. Giving a performance far beyond his years, rife with emotional layering and depth, this is Williams’ film. Playing a character such as Ray, someone who has almost completely detached himself from emotions and societal norms and expectations, cannot be an easy feat for any actor, let alone someone young and relatively inexperienced, but Williams anchors the audience to his story and gives them every reason to stay invested. Backed by an incredibly talented supporting cast, most notably Natassia Halabi as Erin and Nova Gaver as Jolene, this film could not have succeeded, on any level, without this near perfect casting. For much of the film, Regionrat simultaneously entertains, but also keeps the audience wondering exactly where the story is going. The pacing is slow, but upon reflection, this could be a directorial choice, mimicking the pace and lifestyle of rural Indiana, where the film takes place. But the film never loses the audience in its lulls, and this is thanks to the believable, relatable performances by the actors across the board.

While the acting is reason enough to watch Regionrat, it would be a travesty to not mention the high quality of production, especially considering the small budget of the film. The audience is immersed into the story through beautiful cinematography by Carlos M. Jimenez and a remarkable original score by Marcus Trumpp. Both the score and the camerawork serve to lend credence to the plight of Ray, and, somehow, they manage to show rural Indiana for what it is while at the same time turning it into something fascinating and beautiful.

Not without its missteps, Regionrat is a solid coming of age story, based in the real world, that stumbles a bit, but really finds its heart in the hopefulness of its protagonist. Many of the themes present in the film are dark, but somehow the film manages to allude falling into depressing and leaves the audience feeling buoyed and positive about the future. 

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-Josie Stec