There is an apocryphal saying - variously attributed to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Mark Twain and a host of others - that there are only two stories we tell each other in our literature, our movies, our narrative arts. In the first, a person goes on a journey; in the second, a stranger comes to town. What matters is not which of these stories an artist chooses, but how it’s told, and how it illuminates another corner of the human soul, be it dark or light. With “Your Move” actor/director/writer Luke Goss effectively combines the two in the person of his protagonist, who must go on a journey to save what he loves most in the world, becoming a stranger in the dark underworld of a Mexican town where clues and danger are virtually indistinguishable.
Goss - up to now known as an actor’s actor and platinum-selling musician - proves highly adept at this newest iteration of his abilities, guiding what in other hands might be a standard genre story forward with skill and subtlety. By keeping the focus on the inner workings
of his characters Goss creates as much nerve-wracking tension with a quiet tableau between two people as he does with an all-out chase scene.
Goss plays New York businessman David Miller, a man with a good life and a family he adores. While on a video call with his wife Isabel (Patricia De Leon) and young daughter Savannah (Laura Martin), who are in Mexico visiting Isabel’s parents, David - back home in New York - witnesses a brutal attack on them that ends in an apparent kidnapping. Stuck thousands of miles away and not knowing where to turn, David calls the local NYPD, whose skeptical response only makes him realize how dire his family’s situation actually is. As an actor Goss is deeply likable, exceptionally effective at translating what his characters are feeling, and the terror David experiences at not knowing what has happened to his loved ones is brutal and palpable.
In Mexico he meets the cop in charge of the case, Detective Romero (the superb Robert Davi, in a richly nuanced performance). David wants answers, action, anything to make him feel that progress is being made. Romero, a good detective, understands the need to build his case on facts, and while Romero feels for David’s plight, the man is also his worst nightmare - an uncontrolled wild card who could blow the case at a moment’s notice by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Romero’s careful, low-key approach to the investigation seems like dangerous and deadly plodding from David’s point of view, sure to get his wife and daughter killed.
On the other side of the coin is Isabel’s father, Señor Barrabas, a wealthy patrón of weight and gravity. Luis Gatica plays Barrabas with a quiet intensity that is at once civilized and menacing. Though he treats David and the detective as equals, he appears to engender fear and respect everywhere else. Accompanied at all times by a suited, hulking - and likely armed - bodyguard, who Goss subtley keeps just at the edge of the frame, Barrabas’ business dealings can only be guessed at. When it appears that he agrees with Romero’s method of handling the case, David panicks and takes matters into his own hands.
Though fit and athletic, David has no “special set of skills” with which to make the bad guy’s life hell a’la the uber-hero in “Taken”, relying instead on instinct and sheer persistence, driven by the certain terror that if he doesn’t use every means at his disposal to track his family down, he will never see them again. Agonizing every step of the way over what he must become to get the job done, he isolates himself from both family and the authorities and relies instead on his gut.
Goss’s abilities as a visual stylist and storyteller are well-matched to his subject matter and the camerawork is assured, but he doesn’t sacrifice character development for the sake of style. Goss - who also wrote the script - keeps the dialogue spare and measured, making wonderful use of the players’ inner lives to push the narrative and generate emotion. The acting is uniformly superb and the casting and directing are spot-on, with a touching and almost Fellini-esque sensibility, making scenes with even the most secondary characters satisfying and rewarding. The landscape of the human face as a map of the psyche clearly fascinates Goss at the deepest levels, and his painterly use of color, light and shadow add to the suspense and the unfolding story, while allowing the audience their own visual and emotional journey. And though the church is never explicitly mentioned there is a strain of lush religious iconography running through the film, implying religion as a particularly horrifying form of self-justification for the antagonist, played by Alain Mora in a performance that is a revelatory and disturbing portrayal of a man with a terrifying split in his psyche.
The film may be billed as a psychological thriller, but the execution and performances defy simple genre categorization. It would appear that “Your Move” marks the auspicious start of yet another successful branch of Goss’s multi-hyphenate career.
“Your Move” has its UK premiere on January 27, 2017. Watch the trailer, here:
Writer: Kely Lyons - Los Angeles - January 27, 2018