Jon Cvack has put so much effort into his first feature film that it never feels amateurish or inept. The director has a firm grip on every aspect of his movie: script, photography, lighting, editing, and the usual teething problems normally associated with a budding filmmaker (such as the occasional odd angle, or the vaguely clumsy dialogue) are entirely absent. The helmer has paid attention to every frame and every single line of his movie, and the result is an immaculate gem waiting to be unearthed.
Jack (Micah Parker) visits the town of his youth searching for some of his old friends. In the evening, he goes out on a binge with Frank (Laurence Fuller), which somehow culminates in the murder of a prostitute. Together the two friends set out on a bizarre mission to bury the body, thereby evading justice. They come across a number of unlikely characters, such as Frank’s old girlfriend and a self-loathing war veteran, on the way to the woman’s final burial ground. These people punctuate their journey with twisted reminders of mortality, justice as well as a test for their sense of loyalty and humanity.
The camera movements are constant and yet very subtle, in contrast to the multiple perspectives and ingenious, fast editing. The lighting is also remarkable: a very elegant neo-noir chiaroscuro provides the narrative with a comforting eeriness. They are mostly shades of red and yellow, wrapping the film with a warm layer of coziness and carnality, despite the grim subject of murder. There are very clever shots filmed from outside a moving car with the environment reflected on the glass. The result: the trees outside juxtaposed on the characters inside the car. This is a deft film trick achieved also by Kiarostami in Certified Copy (2010). In the movie by the Iranian filmmaker, Juliette Binoche drives through the streets of Arezzo (in Italy) and the buildings are juxtaposed on the driver and the passenger. Cvack’s version is no less impressive.
There’s plenty of blood throughout the movie, not just the prostitute’s, and yet this is neither a slasher nor a Tarantinoesque flick with very graphic and gratuitous violence. Aesthetically, Road to the Well is very close to David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997), minus the supernatural, plus some splattered blood. The narrative is consistently gloomy, suspenseful and dotted with weird people, red herrings, and other devices that don’t always connect. Don’t expect clearcut explanations for every little twist you see.
The sound score also deserves a special mention. The music is pervasive without being invasive, it supports the narrative without distorting it. It’s creepy but never tawdry. It blends in extremely well with every sequence, and at times it’s difficult to determine whether the sounds are diegetic or not. It gives the perfect finishing touch to a first-class endeavour.
The relatively long (at least for a new helmer) duration of the movie of 109 minutes does not affect integrity of the experience. This film will enthrall you from the very first second (it opens straight away without opening credits). It closes without a pompous climax, preserving the somber and strangely captivating mood established throughout.
Jon Cvack’s first feature will keep you thinking, looking back and wanting to put the puzzle pieces together for days to come.
Road to the Well was released earlier this month on DVD and VOD via Candy Factory Films – just click here for more information. Make sure you turn the volume up and the lights down for the full experience. Sit back and rest assured that you will get your money’s worth.
Watch the trailer for a taster of the delicious eerieness of this splendid American indie: