- Movie Rating -

The 2017 Sidewalk Film Festival Reviews: The Strange Ones (2017)

| August 31, 2017

To know me is to know that I am one of the most patient filmgoers you’ll ever meet.  I love the work of a director who is willing to take the time to build tension and allow his/her story time to breathe – I love a slow burn.  The reward, when the film is paced just right, is that the dramatic payoff hits with more potency.  Yet, I must tell you that nothing grates on my nerves more than when I realize that the slow burn turns out to be the director just screwing with me.

That’s the feeling I got from The Strange Ones, a long and disengaging . . . thriller, I guess, that plays it’s hand so slowly and for so long that when you get to the end you realize that your patience was all for nothing.  Let’s put it this way, the movie ends with a shot of dark cave with nothing inside and it inadvertently became my criticism of this movie.

The movie begins with an intriguing idea.  Two brothers are on the road traveling together, but we can sense right away that this is no pleasure trip.  There’s a distance between them as if whatever they’ve left behind is worth getting away from.  There are long silences between them.  The older man is Nick (Alex Pettyfer), a bearded hunk whose presence suggests either menace or brotherly protectiveness – we’re never quite sure.  The younger is a kid named Sam or Jedediah (James Freedson-Jackson) – again, we’re never quite sure.

They are brothers, or maybe they’re not.  They are on the run, or . . . maybe they’re not.  Their father was murdered some time ago, or maybe he wasn’t.  Nick was responsible, or maybe he wasn’t.  He has the power to make objects disappear, or maybe he doesn’t.  Sam/Jedediah has the power to rearrange matter with his mind, or maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe Nick is real, or maybe he isn’t.  Sam/Jedediah is real, or maybe he isn’t.  Nick and Sam/Jedediah could be the same person, or maybe they aren’t.
I thought of getting up and walk out of this stupid movie in the middle, but maybe I wouldn’t.

Nothing in this story is ever consistent.  There’s good pacing but the movie is marching slowly to nowhere.  We are never sure what is real and the writers don’t bother to clue us in on any kind of resolution.  There’s a lot of walking around in the woods with guns, and there’s a lot of talk about “it’s all in your mind” but where is the context?  Where is our foothold?  Are these events real?  Are the characters real?  Are they supernatural?  Is this a dream?  Is it a metaphor?  A statement?  A symbol?  A commentary?  A practical joke?

When I saw The Strange Ones at the 19th Annual Sidewalk Film Festival, the movie was preceded by a host asking the audience to stick around afterwards because there would be a Q and A.  When the movie ended, I bolted out of my seat and out of the theater because I knew that once I started asking questions, it would take security dragging me out to get me to shut up.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Drama