Directed by Tristen James Jensen
Starring Riley Yeary, Kaleb Miller and Angelina Masciopinto
Indie Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
First things first —- the best part about this film is the well defined craft its director was able to showcase for such a lack of experience. Tristen James Jensen shot, produced, wrote, and directed his debut The Unearthing, a solid coming-of-age drama with an effective mix of adventure and mystery. Its narrative structure is understandable and well-made, progressing with a simplistic and blitheful flow of events, making it an effective and admirable gem of how friendship and imagination can provide a bit of beautiful succour. Oh, and this director is 16 years old.
We follow Autumn (Riley Yeary), a girl who moves to Minnesota for summer. She and her dad move every 3 months from place to place, resulting in her feeling desolate from the world and the people around her. She then meets two local teens --- one a joyful girl, Charlotte (Angelina Masciopinto), and the other a slightly shy boy, Parker (Kaleb Miller). Together they unravel a supernatural secret, but these youngsters aren't just curious, and their intentions are more intriguing than the usual and conventional family-friendly drivel. On the other hand, directorial decisions are discrepant with the quality. There is an abundance of panning shots, the execution of the themes and plot can be perhaps a bit too sentimental, and the ambiguous ending, although surprisingly dense, seemed to be included to fill in some plot holes.
However, this indie film is all about the characters, and The Unearthing delivers in that aspect greatly. It is very entertaining to watch the antics of these three very different teens. Their attempts to unearth (hence the title) this layered and creepy local legend is something very entertaining to watch, and their performances are mainly the reason for that, carrying this story from start to finish. I personally favoured Masciopinto's performance because of her comic relief and energy. Yeary's narration throughout is her character's best quality, representing the development of Autumn (cleverly named to symbolise this transformational state of hers). And, lastly, Miller's Parker is subtle. Out of a myriad of inspiring things for directors The Unearthing presents, it represents the fact that you can get very decent performances from volunteers.
At one point, there is even a notable tonal change in the film, with the plot becoming increasingly darker and scarier after a big reveal that will genuinely leave you with chills the way a fully fledged horror film would. Generally, the supernatural aspect of this film is superbly implemented, with great effects to boot. But most viewers should not stop there, as The Unearthing has clear and lush-filled camera angles, vividly striking lighting and an overall great sense of production which you cannot find many flaws in. And all of this was carried out with no budget whatsoever. The Unearthing is a pure embodiment of what can be accomplished with a bit of creativity and audacity, just like with these three Minnesotan teens.
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