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Grear Patterson Giants Being Lonely Movie Review

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Giants Being Lonely | Review

Giants Being Lonely | Review

Two Heads Are Better Than One: Patterson Paints a Teenage Wasteland in Striking Debut

Grear Patterson Giants Being Lonely Movie ReviewIn the realm of arthouse cinema, the coming-of-age melodrama is but a stone’s throw away no matter which way one turns. Every now and then, one of them manages to strike an impressionistic chord, reflecting a time and place or way of life which on the surface seems banal but eventually pulls itself apart to reveal the furious tempest of our lifeforce. Such is the case with Giants Being Lonely, the directorial debut of Grear Patterson, who wrote his first draft of the treatment at only nineteen years of age. Its subject, two young men on the verge of high school graduation who are members of the same baseball team, waxes authentic in the inarticulateness of its characterizations, buoyed by a breathless blend of visuals for a transportive concoction.

Initially as aimless and bursting with lackadaisical potential as this transitional period of life tends to be, Patterson brinks us to blunt realities without overt melodrama or nostalgic sashays. Like a lazy, Sunday afternoon, it’s a film which drifts like a daydream before it slams your fingers in the screen door.

Adam (Ben Irving) and Bobby (Jack Irving) are two young men on the same baseball team in their small North Carolina town. The student body is abuzz with the inevitability of prom, but both boys find themselves tethered to realities at home they cannot escape. Initially, Bobby seems down and out, living in a trailer with an alcoholic father. Adam’s dad (Gabe Fazio) is their coach, and his abusive behavior in the dugout is more oppressive at home, where his mother (Amalia Culp) seems catatonic in response to her husband’s rages at the dinner table (though a chance interaction with a cohort of Adam’s suggests the depths of her despair are much deeper than anyone might ever know). Both boys have eyes for Caroline (Lily Gavin), who also has a strained, perhaps unconsciously competitive relationship with her own mother (Stella Schnabel). As prom rolls around, an unexpected reckoning transpires on an otherwise sleepy, dusky delta day.

The title is derived from Carl Sandburg’s poem “High Risk Individuals,” which could have also served as a title for Patterson’s sentiments. The melancholic homage is a double-edged sword for the adage of ‘the best years of our lives’ memorializing high school athletics, when such is not the actual reality for many. Slowly and methodically, the juxtaposed experiences of Adam and Bobby, who initially are so similarly styled and ‘maned’ it’s hard to differentiate between them, reveals Giants Being Lonely as a woeful ballad. Like the Southern Gothic uneasiness of Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe, it reveals the energy of misery both mythic yet familiar, the miserabilism of life which snuffs out the hope and potential of many before life can be lived for oneself.

While sometimes feeling like the navel gazing fluff of adolescent cliché, Patterson stuns in the film’s final moments, always upending expectations. The abusive relationship of Adam and his toxic father reach crescendos which are painful to behold, nerve wracking in how authentically dire the dysfunction of the nuclear familial unit can become.

Although we get some parallels with similar weirdness experienced by young women and their mothers, as seen through Lily Gavin’s Caroline, Patterson feels particularly attenuated to the experiences of teenage boys groomed for physical prowess and little else. But it’s really DP Hunter Zimny and Patterson’s editor Ismael de Diego who deserve credit for a home run, as Giants Being Lonely, which purposely avoids technological reference, formulates its own vibe. It may be North Carolina, but the mood and attitude of freedom’s mirage against the backdrop of gravel roads, verdant foliage and encroaching summer creates a formidable, timeless homage.

★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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