That's Just Rocks
Oct 29, 2022
John Strelec, Jeni Reed, Bessie Jo Hill, Bagels The Beagle
Poor Herman's had a bump on the head. He's been throwing rocks again and this time one has come back down and cracked him on the noggin. Luckily he's managed to find himself somewhere familiar and his sister, Marsha has turned up to look after him. The problem is that Herman doesn't remember anything – not Marsha, not himself, not his life, nothing – except one beautiful, shining memory. Hapless Herman believes that just before he was knocked out cold he saw the love of his life, the one, true, perfect beauty that would help everything else make sense, and now he's on a mission to find her again.
Herman (Strelec) unfortunately doesn't have a lot to work with – just his own personal philosophy, whatever smarts he has and a glowing, harmonious image of his love picking up her dog's poop from the side of the road. Marsha (Reed) is thankfully on hand to help and together they cook up a plan of action where they head out onto the streets to get the word out and see if they can find the object of Herman's affections. Along the way, Herman relates more of his own personal philosophy, some of which is to do with rocks and some of which is to do with maybe a little more – maybe. Marsha, meanwhile, tries to get Herman to remember, telling stories from childhood which have deep, emotional impressions attached. Nothing's working though, and Herman remains with only one image in his head.
Both leads do a sublime job of inhabiting their inherently kooky characters. Writer/director John Strelec plays his own creation, Herman with a dumb profundity that endears you to him immediately, while Jenni Reed is pitch perfect as Marsha – kind, caring, understanding, funny. The two work off each other brilliantly and you feel a genuine bond develop between the two main characters as you watch their day unfold. The story and characterisation are also helped hugely by Zachary Leavitt's beautiful score which uses soft, dreamy electro-beats to take us on this journey.
As a director, Strelec manages to deliver his own special little slice of Americana to the audience. The palm filled streets of Los Angeles drift easily by as sandy colours light up the scenes and the lens flare hits the camera, with Walter Dandy's cinematography encapsulating the blissful haziness of Herman's story. The fact that Strelec went to Cripple Creek to film a surreal dream sequence about, you guessed it – rocks, also shows an attention to detail that is embedded a little deeper than the usual and gives a strong impression of the ground on which the story and script are founded.
That's Just Rocks shines like a rare gem right from the start. It reflects a tender, funny and thoughtful nature on its surface while keeping a more complex hidden treasure dug deeper down for those who are willing to mine for it. Like a beautifully raked Zen garden there's not a rock out of place in the whole production and losing yourself in the cosmic order of it all becomes easy the more you look at it. If we were all able to come away with the same calm insight Herman appears to have achieved, it might be worthwhile if we all took up throwing rocks.