I want to like every film I take the time to watch. It’s never easy when a film ends and I have a negative opinion of it. The Strange Ones was the first of this kind of experience because one of the directors, Lauren Wolkstein, was in attendance and did a Q&A at the Florida Film Festival after the film ended. I expected the questions to be fairly negative, but to my surprise there were few questions and more praise dished to her for this “excellent” and “important” film. That’s when I realized not liking a film and then having to hear how everyone else thought it was some kind of masterpiece is far worse than sitting silently with one’s thoughts about not liking a film.
The Strange Ones didn’t click for me
Jeremiah (James Freedson-Jackson) and his older brother Nick (Alex Pettyfer) are set out to go camping. Although, it becomes clear that there is something much bigger going on as early scenes informa house was set ablaze before they set off on this vacation. The film attempts to unfold this mystery by utilizing a stingy protagonist who knows all the answers, but doesn’t let us know much…ever.
Writers and directors Christopher Radcliff and Wolkstein created a film that feels like it thinks it’s really smart. The technical elements of this film are fine with a few techniques used a bit too frequently. The amount of slow zooms, that were apparently used to build tension, felt more distracting than functional. However, the “mystery” they build their narrative around was mainly predictable and the elements that are less clear never really gain focus. The ambiguous nature of the story may appeal to certain types of audience members, but really comes off as lazy writing. This review was not a knee jerk reaction to this film, but one that has been delayed as I attempted to understand what the others in attendance saw in it. Alas, this deeper look only pushed the idea that it’s not a good movie a little harder.
The films message is lost. In an attempt to not spoil a new film that is trying to find distribution, the specific issues with the plot will be omitted. The film never felt boring, but the level of engagement was solely in trying to figure out what was the purpose of it. Sadly, it didn’t work for me at all.
The cast was fine, but given the film it’s hard to focus on any specific element. Freedson-Jackson’s performance was either really impressive or extremely bland as his character is predominantly stoic. There is a chance that the film just didn’t connect with my life experiences and thus didn’t work for me. However, The Strange Ones earns the Not a Total Waste of Time.