By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
The Loudest Sound (2015), the feature debut from Boston-based writer-director Jason Miller, is a quintessential illustration of what makes independent filmmaking such a singular and uniquely rewarding experience. Emotionally rich and challenging, the one hundred and nineteen-minute drama is also unapologetically open and relatable. Such factors combine to spellbinding consequence with an often painful, yet assuredly cathartic, intimacy. This is visible from the powerful commencing bit, which is made far more jarring by the snapshot-like collection of occurrences that arrive in quick succession directly beforehand, until the gloriously melancholy finale. There is also a high-functioning artistry to the proceedings. For example, the presentation is hypnotically painted with a mixture of alternating color and black and white sequences. This is with the more defining instances of the relationships which are conveyed on-screen frequently framed in the latter quality. When combined with the unpredictable and often unpronounced transitions in time that transpire through the endeavor, which is marked by eight title card triggered sections, Miller effortlessly evokes an impression akin to sifting through memories.
These, we quickly reveal, are the recollections of our conflicted and twentysomething protagonist, Michael (in a brilliant and achingly genuine representation from Michael Reardon). This is as he inwardly ruminates on his ardent affiliations with Alice (in a wonderful depiction from Johanna Gorton), who is sent to rehab for substance abuse in the early stretches, and Nancy (in a layered and transcendent portrayal by Hillary Coughlin). She is a neighbor to Michael. More specifically, one who soon takes the place of affection the now absent Alice once held in Michael’s heart. Yet, there is an unannounced surprise Michael finds shortly after Alice turns to therapy. It is a bind to Alice that will constantly bring into question his feelings for both her and Nancy. Such a sentimental tug-of-war is the crux in which the picture triumphantly stands. The connection to Alice, a pregnancy, augments the immediacy of Michael’s plight. Such results in an underlying intensity that, when intertwined with the episodes of love and grief which compose the bulk of the undertaking, make this beautifully constructed masterpiece as moving as it is fascinating. The result is an unblemished tone poem. It is one which is full of quiet insight and haunting life lessons.
This is undoubtedly a courtesy of Miller’s mature, lyrical scripting and same said guidance of the project. As a matter of fact, the handling of the material is so strong, especially in terms of credible dialogue and characterizations, that one can naturally draw a parallel to Ingmar Bergman’s groundbreaking Swedish Television mini-series Scenes from a Marriage (1973). The focus on how the passage of eras change the leads of each respective opus (with Miller’s labor spanning three years and Bergman’s tour de force encompassing a decade) are where this comparison most rigorously stems. The unflinching concern invested in our flawed and deeply human central figures increases the correspondence between these two photoplays. There is also a deliberate, methodical pace to each orchestration. Such makes this alignment complete.
The technical aspects of Miller’s affair are just as accomplished. Nolan Yee’s consistently impressive cinematography is as immersive and alluring as the harrowing subject matter demands. The music from composer Matthew Whiteside poignantly punctuates every arrangement it is utilized within. Likewise, Emma Freter and Matthew Watkins’ editing is seamless and superb.
Additionally, the previously unmentioned performers are deft in their individual enactments. Vladimyr B. Mondelus is terrific as Michael’s confidant, Nathaniel. Rob Healey is mesmerizing in his role as Alice’s Dad. Danielle Shaina as Jennifer, Ellen Soderberg as Bride and John Weeks as Jeremy are especially good.
Reality doesn’t ask always sway toward easy inquiries. Nor does it offer simple solutions. Miller’s stunning fabrication, a Patricia Films presentation, is well-aware of this struggle. It can be perceived as a thesis statement for the exertion. Such a realization shouts from the most silent corners of Miller’s narrative. It illuminates the many one-on-one, domestic arguments which ensue between Michael and Nancy or Alice within the confines of the story. This can also be unveiled in the pensive air that floods through Michael’s endless introspection and soul-searching. Not only is this riveting, and worthy of recommending the undertaking on the strength of this merit alone, but it further enhances the authenticity and kinship between audience and fictional persona. Such surges unbounded throughout the duration.
What also helps matters is that alongside the bold themes explored, there is an understanding of the complex affiliations of mortal world with one another that is universal. It is delivered with an observant, yet non-judgmental, eye; evidence of Miller’s raw talent and craftsmanship. In an era where stories of passion are largely burdened by cliché and unnecessary heavy comedy, Miller’s attempt avoids these accessible trappings. Because of this, The Loudest Sound, which is currently being submitted to a variety of related festivals, towers above its peers. Consequentially, Miller’s account is a thought-provoking and wrenching wonder; an insurmountable reflection of cinema as a beacon of existence itself.
(Unrated). Contains adult language and sexuality.
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