By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
Trinity (2016), the outstanding eighty-three minute feature debut from writer and director, Skip Shea, is what is most properly described as a “Lynchian nightmare”. It is an endlessly eerie and effortlessly unsettling endeavor; a journey through the psyche that perfectly blurs what is real and what is imagined. Such is conveyed with quiet, underplayed power. This is through the medium of Shea’s imaginative, genuinely eye-popping and undeniably haunting images. Such punctuates its grimly poetic, highly symbolic underpinnings masterfully. In turn, this attribute only greatly enhances its grand effect.
What is just as remarkable is the distinct rhythm to these phantasmagorias throughout. What makes this detail all the more spectacular is that they are frequently wrapped around intelligent, scholarly conversations. These concern art, religion, Italian proverbs, scripture and the quoting of renowned minds from the past. This gives the piece, released through Racconti Romani Produzioni and Wicked Bird Media, an increasingly intellectual atmosphere. It blends masterfully with the surreal marvels and insights Shea often summons. This detail is utilized incredibly well with the various themes woven into the narrative. It also helps us see our surroundings as Michael is: as a curious but somewhat naïve youth. Shea also focuses with tremendous and intense results on the lingering psychology and aftermath of such events on the victim. This gives us a window into our traumatized lead, Michael (in a courageous, always-watchable and magnificently realized performance by Sean Carmichael). It also acts as a delicate balance between the human and the horrific aspects of this wonderfully challenging work of cinema.
Shea tells a true tale. It focuses in on Michael meeting up with Father Tom (in an enactment by David Graziano that is occasionally vulnerably, often domineering, bold and appropriately creepy) at a coffee shop in New England. Father Tom sexually mistreated Michael, who is now an artist, as a boy. With this awkward, and unexpected, confrontation, the sentiments Michael repressed and tried to keep at bay unveil. Almost immediately, these feelings come again to the forefront. As he later journeys through three churches, an engrossing representation of Michael’s cerebral venture as a whole, Michael comprehends still and remembers the hold Father Tom had on him. It is projected regularly on-screen with chill-inducing power. With this impression, Shea builds the bulk of a picture as a terrifying meditation on the lasting hurt and ever-building torment Father Tom has caused. As we, the audience, move deeper into Michael’s brain the harder it becomes to judge what is accruing now and what has happened before. Than we begin to ponder an equally horrific thought: what if it is, in some fashion or another, beginning to transpire all over again?
It is this emotive impetus which Shea uses brilliantly throughout the film. Not only does this get us to know the character, and those which surround him, exceptionally well but, it creates a terrific imprint of Michael’s singular perspective. Similarly, this component keeps our fascination mounting through the entirety. This sensation of stepping inside the life and deliberations of our protagonist is echoed with a Kubrickian aesthetic habitually through the affair. This is immediately noticeable in the opening moments. Here, we see several well-executed sequences of Michael going about his daily routine. This is as the classic guise of Michael’s voice as narrator offers Michael’s exclusive commentary on casual subjects. One of these is what winter is like where he resides. In the commencing minutes where this occurs, we are drawn in by Michael’s everyday likability. We are just as mesmerized by the natural tranquility and beauty, complete with gorgeous shots of the luminous veneer of piled snow on the ground, which is made all the more hypnotic by Nolan Yee’s gorgeous cinematography. But, when the concluding instances align themselves to these serene commencing bits, it is held in a far darker, more brooding respect. It is in these near-final seconds that we realize just how phenomenally Shea has let us explore the battered recesses of Michael’s inner-workings. Such also lends another bit of the repetition of reflective snapshots so prevalent herein. All of this is evidence of Shea’s stylistic bravado. Furthermore, it is proof of his absolute command of form present in every challenging frame found within this spellbinding tour de force.
Shea keeps the pace even and appropriate through the duration. His screenplay is just as impressive and meditative as his ground-breaking and taunt direction. He gives us believable dialogue, motivations and a realistic platform for his gradually rug-pulling, horror show feat. Despite the aforementioned recurrence of some visions, all we encounter always comes off as fresh and new. In fact, this return makes the sum of Shea’s vehicle all the more like an ever-turning melody in a ghastly, but beautifully engineered, song; a ballad of one man’s tragic childhood circumstances being brought back to light. Such an illusion is made all the more potent by the remarkably funereal music courtesy of Steven Lanning-Cafaro. This particular item courses further effective dread through the soundtrack.
Lynn Lowry is great as Michael’s Mother. Jennifer Gjulameti fares just as Michael’s Spirit Guide. Diana Porter as Sam, Maria Natapov as Maria, Anthony Ambrosino as Nick and Susan T. Travers as Susan are all transcendent in their respective roles. The same can be said for the rest of the cast. Likewise, Shea’s editing is splendidly issued. Phil ‘Skippy’ Adams, Diane Pimentel and Jessica O’ Brien lend a seamless make-up contribution. The sound department produces crisp, solid work. Adams’ special effects are just as seamless and mightily impressive.
Shea’s feature is personal, painful and punishing. It is also intimate and sincere. This is the type of undertaking that mechanizes spectacularly on all levels. In the process, it successfully brings to the surface a multitude of sentiments. From learning Michael so deeply as this raw, unflinching experience moves along, we undergo the same gambit of emotions as Michael himself. This is proof of the movie’s triumph centrally as a drama. Visually, technically and expressively, this demands spectators’ time, reflection and attention. Trinity is fulfilling on all levels. Though it undoubtedly challengers its viewers, it is in the best way imaginable. Such makes the results of this incredible opus of real-life terror all the more potent, immediate and necessary. This is moving art as an example of individual examination and catharsis at its most memorable. Shea has crafted an absolute masterpiece.