top of page


Brutal Season

average rating is 5 out of 5


Jason Knight


Posted on:

Mar 14, 2024

Film Reviews
Brutal Season
Directed by:
Gavin Fields
Written by:
Gavin Fields
Colleen Madden, Houston Settle, Markwood Fields, Shelby Grady, James Ridge, Shuler Hensley

In 1940s New York, a family's life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of an estranged relative.


A good way to start this review would be with the interesting opening of this feature, which takes place with the film-within-a-film technique or the metacinema mode. A film crew is preparing a sound stage, while a narrator briefly gives some information about the story that is about to begin. Then the protagonists are introduced one-by-one, along with their character's name and also their fictional acting name (not the actors' actual names just to be clear), stating that the viewers are watching a work of fiction within a work of fiction. This is an unusual beginning for a film and a rather clever one.


Moving on to the plot now, the first half could be categorised as a period family drama and the rest as a murder-mystery thriller. The narrative takes place in Brooklyn, New York during the summer of 1948. The Trouth family live in an apartment and they consist of Gayle (Madden) and Louis (Ridge), an elderly couple and their two grown-up children, Marianne (Grady) and Charles (Fields). Generally, they are happy, although they are facing some issues as Louis is struggling to maintain a job and Marianne wants to move away. Then, from nowhere, Louis Jr. (Settle), the eldest son, appears, who had left their home twelve years ago without any notification and spend his time travelling and working around the country and Mexico. Although his mother and brother are happy to see him, his sister and father are less pleased. Louis Jr. settles in and catches up with everyone, however the drama begins when he confronts his father about the past, his drinking and gambling problems and a family inheritance. Then, a terrible event turns things upside-down and a life insurance investigator (Hensley) arrives at the apartment in order to interview the family members and determine what happened. From there, the suspense and tension rises as the investigator talks with the Trouths one by one and more and more facts are brought to life, leading to quite dramatic revelations.


Watching this film feels like watching a play. Almost the entire narrative takes place inside one large room, with characters usually sitting at a table, playing cards and having conversations. Also, several shots are directed in ways that make the viewer feel


The mise-en-scene is impressive and it effectively creates a 1940s environment. To begin with, the costumes look very realistic and forties, thanks to the work of Melania Brescia and Andrew Haueter and the hairstyles and furniture also belong in that time period and special mention goes to the appearance of an antique knife that plays a vital part in the story. Production designer Dex Edwards makes an outstanding contribution with the convincing sets. The fabulous music by Andrew Burke is emotional and dynamic and it seems to go with the period in which the story is set. Commendations also go to the creative lighting methods and Steven Carmona's cinematography which create a moody atmosphere. It is also worth mentioning that the hot weather that takes place in the story is obvious as the characters are often sweating.


The well-structured screenplay creates interesting characters, the most intriguing arguably being Louis Jr. He stands out as he has a sort of cool attitude and he is confident and sharp and does not hesitate to express his thoughts. Louis Sr. is probably a close second, a frail old man who is trying to leave his past mistakes behind him. The investigator more or less becomes the protagonist for the second half of the film as he plays detective to uncover the truth behind a tragedy.


This is a story about murder and the complications of a surprise family reunion. Through scenes of heavy drama and mystery, the feature explores family values, regrets and reconciliation. It is a journey back to the 1940s that seems to pay homage to films of that era, particularly film noir and the strong performances, well-written screenplay and forties atmosphere make this a viewing that stands out.

About the Film Critic
Jason Knight
Jason Knight
Indie Feature Film
bottom of page