Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Broken Fences

A lifetime of bad luck threatens a father and son’s reunion, as old wounds resurface and new ones are opened in Broken Fences, Troy McGatlin’s fusion of family drama and contemporary western.

Joe Simmons (Jan Van Sickle) is a quiet and simple man who prefers to spend his days alone working on his ranch. He gets up at 5:00 a.m. and makes sure that the horses, cattle, and chickens are fed before he sits down to eat. Joe lives this life of solitude by choice, but we get a hint early on that Joe has cut himself off from the world a little too much. When he goes to the town’s only store, he’s surprised to find his friend no longer owns the place – and hasn’t for quite some time. Joe might be a little bit lonely, but he’s found his routine and he likes it just fine.

But Joe’s life of peace is unexpectedly disrupted when he gets a phone call from his estranged son Dylan, who informs him that he was recently paroled from jail and is looking for a place to stay. Though it’s only hinted at, it’s clear that Joe and Dylan have a long tumultuous history, and Joe is originally unwilling to take him in, even temporarily. But Joe won’t let his boy live on the streets, and he soon finds himself outside the jail, collecting his son.

Dylan promises his father that he’s a changed man, and it’s easy to believe him. He speaks softly, works hard, and the only time he gets a fiery look in his eye is when he fervently tells his father that he’ll never go back to prison again. Dylan has a host of skeletons in his closet, but maybe undeservedly so. He’s a simple-minded boy who seems to be followed by a host of bad luck. A traumatizing incident in Dylan’s teenage years left him emotionally scarred and in the company of a few bad seeds. Dylan was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it ended up costing him 6 years of his life behind bars.

Even though Dylan promises he’s turned a new leaf, things are uneasy between the two from the very beginning. They eat in silence, work in silence, and spend time on opposite ends of the ranch. But Joe senses a change in Dylan that he can’t deny – maybe his son really has turned his life around. In their first candid moment, Dylan convinces Joe to ask a local shopkeeper out on a date. Things between the two men seem to be getting better, until Dylan’s streak of bad luck and bad behavior catches up to him. From there, the story unfolds in unexpected directions until the shocking third act that you won’t see coming.

There’s a subplot in Broken Fences about a cougar that terrorizes Joe’s livestock. Dylan is a lot like the cougar – unwanted, he stumbles onto Joe’s ranch, makes a mess of things, and leaves it all for his father to clean up. And like the cougar, Dylan doesn’t really mean any harm to Joe. Causing trouble may just be his lot in life. But getting rid of a cougar is easier than getting rid of a child.

Director Troy McGatlin, who graduated from University of Colorado film school, saved up $75,000 to finance Broken Fences by working as an assistant accountant on Batman & Robin, Saving Private Ryan, and Memoirs of a Geisha. But Fences isn’t his first feature – McGatlin directed Head Hunter, an award-winning slasher film, which was picked up by Spectrum Entertainment and released worldwide on DVD. McGatlin proves he’s a versatile filmmaker, effortlessly transitioning from horror to a quiet, touching family story. McGatlin’s talent is not going unnoticed – his work on Broken Fences just earned him the Grand Jury Award for Best Director at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.

Broken Fences carefully explores this relationship between father and son without resorting to clichés. It never asks the audience an obvious question, only to respond with an even more obvious answer. McGatlin has crafted a fine little film that will engage you and challenge you until the end. And what an end it is.
Broken Fences is playing on Sunday, April 20th at 5:00 p.m. at Crossroads.

Visit the official site -- www.brokenfences.org


Anonymous said...

This film is so bizarre...Beautiful scenery, potential for a wonderful story of family healing, but an ending that almost leaves you laughing because you are in such a state of confusion and disbelief.

Mia said...

The only way to mend Broken Fences is to see this great film!

Unknown said...

If films like "Maid in Manhatten" are you kind of film, then I suggest you stay away from Broken Fences. But if you like to be challenged by a film then I highly suggest you see this movie.