JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Baystate Blues (Director/Writer: Mark Lewis) - March 13, 2009

Baystate Blues

4 4
89 min.

The Accidental Groupie

Writer/director Mark Lewis has come up with a gem of a film that digs deep into the frequently rocky world of intimate relationships. This day-in-the-life story features great acting, instrumental music (from the opening solo cello suite through some delectably rendered acoustic guitar) and a few carefully chosen songs that are all at one with the action.

Like the creative process of emerging writer Alex (Steffi Kammer plays the youngest of the three sisters with a zesty freshness that allows her serious side to travel in tandem just below the surface), the segments flow from the head through the hand onto the screen in a seamless fashion that belies the effort and insight required.

At the centre of the drama is Devon (Allyson Sereboff uses her expressive visage and body language to excellent effect in the many silent shots where the viewers are left on their own to imagine her feelings and thoughts). Recovering from a car crash, she hobbles therapeutically down a country road, leaning heavily on a cane, only to find herself in a chance meeting with long-departed school chum (now successful rock star) Wojo (McKey Carpenter).

Devon’s husband, Mike (it takes Scott Lewis a couple of scenes to find his dialogue groove, but once on the job it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way) expertly renovates other people’s dwellings but can’t find time to repair his own. As the hours pass by, it seems his life may require major reconstruction as well.

Also searching for her inner self is Devon’s sister Virginia (played with thoughtful honesty by Sharon McGuire). The heavy-smoking lost soul impulsively throws caution to the wind and invites Jason (Joe Tuttle shows impressive range), her badly treated ex (ask anyone!), to an informal house party at Devon and Mike’s deep-in-the-woods home.

During the course of the evening (following a sensitively shot/edited failed pre-party coitus-in-the-kitchen attempt by the drifting hosts), everyone discovers more truth about themselves than even their varying degrees of angst were prepared for.

With many other writers, the reliance on coincidence, opportunity and near-simultaneous psychological meltdowns would result in a too-bitter/sugary-sweet dramatic confection that would be impossible to swallow much less enjoy and digest. But Lewis demonstrates his instinct and skill (never hearing a word as we observe Alex’s latest script being given a workshop read-through by most of the guests accompanied unknowingly by guitar sets up the ensuing sequence perfectly) in almost every frame. Best of all, in a discreet homage to the likes of Ibsen (cross-reference below) not every question is answered by the next dawn.

A talent such as this deserves our “trust and loyalty”; this filmmaker’s next project is eagerly awaited. JWR

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