I often find myself resisting the urge to start these reviews with “And now for something completely different..”.
The fact is that while I predominantly cover horror films in this column, microbudget filmmaking covers a wide swath of genres and subject matter, and some of the most interesting work comes from material far (or mostly) removed from blood and gore. Take Henrique Couto’s DEPRESSION: THE MOVIE, which – despite a brief serial killer subplot – generally sticks to a wholly more sedate combination of comedy and drama; exploring the story of four disparate people: Lenny, Bruce, Bill and George (who is female); as they attempt to maneuver their personal struggles and relationships.
While the stories all briefly come together at the end, the film plays out episodically, with little thematic crossover outside a vague focus on depression and emotional connection. Lenny talks through his recent relationship troubles with a friend before deciding to run after the one that got away. Bruce confronts his estranged father after the death of a beloved relative. Bill has a lengthy conversation with a depressed female friend over his inability to confront his feelings for her. And George simultaneously fends off a killer and the affections of a sweet, semi-obsessed pothead. It makes for rather herky-jerky viewing, with the third segment abandoning comedy almost entirely, and the fourth making for a jarring shift in tone with its horror elements.
Predictably, the first two segments are very strong. The Lenny piece is likely the most explicitly comedic, with a number of flashbacks as the character relates his history of doomed relationships. The brief cut-aways and frank dialogue sometimes veers into Kevin Smith territory, but it’s all quite engaging and has a dark, funny coda that ties things together nicely. Bruce is a more troubled individual, and his drug-fueled pilgrimage to his father’s house makes for some dramatic viewing – and their confrontation is some of the best written material in the film. It’s also helped by the actor playing the father, who is awfully impressive in his brief appearance. The ending doesn’t have quite the intended punch (no pun intended), but it’s a fast paced and flighty piece.
Unfortunately, the Bill segment brings things to a screeching halt. Everything about the segment feels thrown together, and even Couto’s odd interest in whether women fart (focused on strongly in two of the episodes) doesn’t save what is generally a humorless and badly acted story. The dialogue is meant to convey depth and emotion, but both characters seem to be speaking with the same voice – an issue with all of the segments, really – but without any of the visual interest or humor that propped up the Lenny and Bruce segments.
The George segment is an improvement, though feels like a mish-mash of ideas from entirely different films. After a familiar set-up, the serial killer subplot feels tacked on, and we never quite get enough of a handle on George as a character to feel engrossed by her fate. It’s also hard to tie the themes of this segment into the rest of the film. I suppose George is as lonely and desperate to connect with other people as the other three leads, but little of that comes through in her eventual confrontation with the killer. Thankfully, there are moments of winning humor that smooth over some of the rougher patches.
An uneven but engaging collection of diverse shorts, DEPRESSION: THE MOVIE benefits from a confident amateur cast and a willingness to tackle subject matter beyond the usual hack and slash. It’s not always successful, but Couto’s assured direction and a frequently witty script holds together the first half. The final two segments are less successful, but contain enough flashes of inspiration that patient fans of microbudget cinema will be appreciative. It doesn’t all hold together, but it’s a welcome experiment and shows plenty of promise.
Three Nightmares out of Five – Shows Potential
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
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