The Evening Hour - International Film Festival Rotterdam review

★★

Directed by #BradenKing

Starring #PhilipEttinger #MarcMenchaca #RossPartridge

Film review by Nathanial Eker


A story with a gluttonous excess of drug laced thematic undertones, The Evening Hour aims high, but falls short. Against spectacular canvases of stunning West Virginia, this tale of redemption attempts to spin an admirable number of narrative plates. Director Braden King crafts a story that makes sweeping statements about small town economics, the nature of human morality, and the desperation perpetuated by the narcotics trade. Despite these compelling themes, King’s small-stakes tale is unfortunately more a bad trip than a welcome shot of adrenaline, thanks to stereotypical characters and sluggish pacing.


Cole Freeman is a caretaker of the elderly in the rural town of Dove Creek. He’s also a supplier of illegal painkillers, standing a stone’s throw from a slippery slope to dealing. Cole keeps to a personal code though, insisting that he can remain both drug provider and a good man. Through evolving relationships within his tight community, Cole must challenge both the brutal industry and his personal demons on his quest for redemption.


King’s vision for Dove Creek revels in its Americanness from the outset. Pick-up trucks, baseball caps, and neon lit bars define its mise-en-scené, expressing without words the town’s ethos of hard work and familial connection. This rural aesthetic extends into landscape photography, as the still, rich natural light of the Virginia sky across King’s impressive wide shots craft an understated setting that juxtaposes the town’s corrupt goings on.


It’s clear that The Evening Hour admirably aims to highlight a lack of opportunity for the younger generation, though this engaging notion quickly takes a backseat to Cole’s insular story of personal vindication. Flashes to the past highlight painful memories of simpler times, though Philip Ettinger regrettably fails to sell the portrayal of a man haunted, as he’s more oblivious and brattish than conflicted and concerned.


This isn’t helped by crucial supporting characters’ descent into laughable levels of stereotyping that clashes dreadfully with the realism infused tone. We’ve seen antagonist Everett more times than Cole’s dealt illegal painkillers; he’s the nasty drug lord with a sinister love of violence and an obsession with respect. He’s Frank White. He’s Breaking Bad’s Tuco. He belongs in a pantomime. Of course, characterisation is inevitably led by the source material, though it’s the filmmaker’s prerogative to make essential changes and to adhere to the film’s truth.


The Evening Hour at times dives into pressing issues, yet ultimately lacks anything interesting to say. Despite a well-established sense of community and an attractive mise-en-scené, widely over the top performances, and especially a dull leading man disconnect the audience from the heart of this would-be interesting cautionary tale. The Evening Hour boasts the seeds of greatness, but it’s ultimately not the tear jerker it desperately strives to be.



#NathanialEker #IFFR #IFFR2020