Spring Forward | Chicago Reader

Spring Forward

Sometimes stage directors come to the screen just to dress up actors and dialogue with close-ups, cutaways, and fancy establishing shots, but writer-director Tom Gilroy, who cofounded the New York theater company Machine Full, has made stagelike drama and film truly complement each other in his first feature. A longtime New England parks and recreation department employee (Ned Beatty) and his new work partner, a parolee (Liev Schreiber), mostly just talk to each other—though they do get some work done and talk to a few other people, and at one point things even get melodramatic. The two characters turn again and again to topics as risky as the meaning of life, but the actors inhabit their roles so fully they're never in danger of becoming mere mouthpieces for the themes. Gilroy knows that point-of-view shots and close-ups aren't the only or even the best ways to put us inside the minds and hearts of his characters, and he treats us less like a movie audience than a third party to their discussions. We see them in woods, in parks, in their truck, in the home of a woman they meet, in a parking lot, and we see things they don't—people they never meet whose chores or games establish the rhythms of life in each location. Gilroy often homes in on Beatty and Schreiber with subtle edits instead of predictable camera movement, and even when he cuts obtrusively to suggest what's inside a character's mind, he makes sure we know that the images aren't attempts to literalize something as ineffable as a thought, a dream, a memory, a vision. With Campbell Scott, Ian Hart, Peri Gilpin, Bill Raymond, and Catherine Kellner. 112 min.

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