Directed by: #JustinMelson
Written by: #JustinMelson
A young man (Araujo) runs through the streets of his home town. He wants to tell us his story and decides to do that entirely through the narrative device of a voice-over. We find out that he's holding onto things from his past, things that provoke him to wax lyrical, so he tells us how he feels in woolly reminiscences, old cliches and tired metaphors. We don't know who this young man is because he never tells us and the narrative device he has chosen doesn't allow us an introduction. We have to wait until the credits roll to look for his name and eventually we find out that he is Stone – not that that helps us.
Stone's story is one of two parts: A love story and a war story. In Angora Road these two opposing scenarios are mish-mashed together when Stone tries to pick through the meaningful moments of his life for us. Bookending the film are his romance and enduring love for Sophie (St. John), the girl he met when he was out running one day; and sandwiched in the middle is his time on tour as a soldier, in what can only be imagined is Afghanistan. All the way through we get no real idea of who Stone or Sophie are because there is no characterisation to tell us. The only dialogue that comes along is perfunctory, in the battle sequence, and the rest is listening to Stone warble on in his head as he tries his best to add poetry and meaning to his life.
Even though he is trying to make sense of it all, everything seems confused in Stone's head. In fact everything in Angora Road seems confused, much like it suggests in the film's subtitle, 'A Love Story War Film' where it doesn't really know what it is trying to be or in which direction it should be going, so it just decides to do it all and see what emerges. It all seems highly reminiscent of another film that similarly tried to broach these two subjects together, Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, and we all saw how that turned out. It's as if writer/director/producer Justin Melson turned up to his first screenwriting class one day and was told that for a film to be successful it needs to have action and romance and so that's what he endeavoured entirely to provide.
That's not to say that Melson doesn't know what he's doing. His talent and skill behind the camera as director and cinematographer are plain to see in every shot of the film. From sunny love-filled days by the river, to dusty shoot-outs in a canyon, to muted longing by the graveside, the visuals are stunning to look at and well put together. Everything on the screen screams high production value and for an indie film to look so much like a full budget feature is testament to the hard work, dedication and undeniable talent of Melson and his crew. The music by Jacob A. Cadmus only adds to the quality feel of the production and the way the film is pieced together it seems as though everyone is channelling their inner Clint Eastwood.
Sadly though, the story just doesn't stand up. The fact that there is no dialogue makes everything seem like a series of montages and completely negates any way of getting into and identifying with the characters. There are issues with the battle sequence too, where hundreds of rounds are fired and our hero escapes despite being ambushed from higher ground and pinned down in a bottleneck. The jingoistic nature of it all also rings hollow, and in everyone's attempt to make this film all things Clint, they seem to have missed the mark entirely. In the end Angora Road turns out to be more Lone Survivor than American Sniper. Shame, really.