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A Borrowed Paradise

average rating is 2 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Jun 16, 2023

Film Reviews
A Borrowed Paradise
Directed by:
Peter Dorn-Ravlin
Written by:
Peter Dorn-Ravlin
Katan Sosnovec, Scott Menzies, Ricci Dedola

Deep down all of us are searching for a way out. Both in terms of the grander scale of life itself, in which we endlessly toil and only escaping in few, joyous pleasures, and on a smaller scale, from the environments in which we find ourselves and the relationships that we become trapped in. Life, the world around us, and the relationships that we hold are both the greatest blessings in the world and the eternal curse of humanity. ‘A Borrowed Paradise’ understands this, and reflects this idea to a certain extent, though whilst It philosophically conveys its message, this is done almost painfully through some turgid and inept filmmaking.


That ‘A Borrowed Paradise’ is a deeply personal film to writer-director Peter Dorn-Ravlin is clear through the profundity with which he attempts to deal with a troubled adolescence. It’s a story which everybody, or the vast majority of people, can relate to, as teenager Theo (Katan Sosnovec) faces severe challenges to the stability of his mental health. Granted, the problems which young Theo faces are of greater significance than those everybody is likely to encounter during their school years, as he has to face up to the devastating loss of his mother (Ricci Dedola) and the damaging spiral of alcoholism that this has caused in his father (Scott Menzies). The title itself is of interest, perhaps a reflection of the sparing moments of joy spent as a family, or alternatively of the fleeting pleasure and joy given to Theo’s father, Derrick, through his alcohol addiction.


Such philosophical messaging - further conveyed through the religious allegories retained throughout - and the sentimentality which the film displays are all well and good, but those two factors alone do not make up for poor quality filmmaking. Dorn-Ravlin attempts to impose the film with a directorial style ill-fitting to the subject, with an almost documentarian shaky camera and sharp, sudden zooms not suiting the domestic tone of the film, firmly a stable, sombre drama in character. Though such directing shows a certain skill in terms and competency behind the camera, it doesn’t complement the film, and undermines the seriousness of catastrophic on-screen actions - for example, the dramatic weight of Derrick withdrawing a firearm from a drawer is downplayed by the quick zoom in, and almost as sharp zoom out, as though the viewer doesn’t understand what a gun is and how damaging they can be. The editing is similarly reductive to the film’s sombre, level tone as a whole, with flashbacks to Theo’s mother and father’s past tinted too heavily and occurring too sharply, to truly aid the non-linear storytelling, instead making each cut back to the past jarring, and too stark a difference from the brutalism of Theo’s life without his mother.


The script, though it successfully outlines the films message and philosophy, similarly causes problems to the film as a whole. Dialogue is a key issue, with the philosophy so obvious because characters say it all, conveying nothing through subtext or leaving anything the viewer’s imagination. As such it is cloggy and robotic, particularly when characters begin reciting poetry in a manner that no human being, at least no sane human being, has ever spoken. This adversely affects the performances of the entire cast, who, though no doubt talented, struggle with the sheer density of the script, and end up overacting to the point at which they sound mechanical.


The clarity and success of ‘A Borrowed Paradise’ in outlining Peter Dorn-Ravlin’s beliefs are central to the films faults, with an over reliance on dialogue in the screenplay reflective of the poor filmmaking throughout. As such, ‘A Borrowed Paradise’ fails as a film where perhaps it may have worked to a greater extent as a novel, which would allow its creator’s interesting ideas and thoughts to be further fleshed out without becoming bogged down by problematic technical aspects of filmmaking.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Indie Feature Film
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