This Is Martin Bonner Screen 10 articles

This Is Martin Bonner

2013

This Is Martin Bonner Poster
  • This Is Martin Bonner is carried out with such understated precision that small details have profound resonances: Arquette’s father-daughter reunion is painful to watch, but there’s a germ of hope in the unremarked coincidence that both order their sandwiches without mayo... It’s a brief wisp of a movie, but one that’s not easy to shake.

  • Hartigan's calm and detailed style allows the trials and growth of the characters to feel authentic and real. The power of the performances nearly outweighs the dead weight, and sometimes extraneous, theme of dissatisfaction with religion. Though the story is simple, the depth and humanity afforded the characters gives the film its strength.

  • Stylistically, Hartigan favors clean, modestly composed setups, with a penchant for subtly deployed panning shots adding to the aforementioned sense of anxiety in Martin and Travis's converging and corresponding activities. At its best, with its quiet, ominous pace in the early going and its economical distribution of information throughout, the film is reminiscent of Todd Haynes's Safe.

  • The camera movements — including a 360-degree pan outside Travis’s motel — feel like borrowings from European art cinema or late Gus Van Sant grafted onto a slice of humble Amerindie... These moves are the exception in “This Is Martin Bonner,” and the opening scene, showing Martin counseling a hard-bargaining prisoner, signals the director’s restraint early on, drawing the curtain on another kind of story.

  • In writer-director Chad Hartigan's daringly low-key film, Martin takes Travis under his wing, and, slowly, beat by beat, a friendship is built. This Is Martin Bonner isn't exciting, but it's also never dull. By calling on his leads to underplay nearly every moment, Hartigan calls into question our deeply ingrained instinct, as moviegoers, to witness a steady parade of amped-up emotions.

  • Hartigan tempers the sentimentality of his premise with an equally uncommon formal rigor, shooting largely in precisely composed long takes and glacial 360-degree pans, attuned to the psychic effects of the landscape and the articulating the pain felt by his leads through suggestion rather than explication. The result has a certain sophistication—and not only of style, but, more impressively, of expression.

  • God-talk isn't irrelevant, a sense of mission being what these characters yearn for... and there's also a sense of halting human connection (elusive, like Martin's son) and a strong sense of place (Reno, a desert town that nobody's actually from), but - as in Short Term 12, another tale of flawed do-gooders - a faint dullness seeps in before the end. Framings deliberate but not too inventive, and the final symbolic pair of glasses (Martin's life coming into focus?) seems unwarranted.

  • The writer and director, Chad Hartigan, transforms the potentially maudlin premise into a luminous reach for grace. As the spare, sharp dialogue and tensely searching performances elicit lives filled with pain and loss, Hartigan’s images (realized by the cinematographer, Sean McElwee) capture a serene spiritual bounty that shines through the daily grit and grind.

  • [Eenhoorn's] every gesture seems informed by genuine life experience as opposed to a screenwriter’s contrivance... Hartigan must be commended too, for allowing Bonner and Holloway’s tentative rapport to dictate the drama rather than impose insights where they haven’t been earned. Patience is privileged, nothing is forced, and by the end of this quietly devastating character study, the ordinary has become extraordinary.

  • If some of the film’s visuals imply a director still handcuffed by patterned modes of thinking, the overriding worldview of the film is quite the opposite. At the heart of This Is Martin Bonner is the idea that our identities are malleable, as well as the reassuring belief that life can always restart if we allow it to.

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