Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’13: This is Martin Bonner
seems like the only job Martin Bonner can get involves doing the Lord’s
work. He has decidedly mixed feelings
about that. Yet, his own uncertainties
make him a more accessible adviser for a remorseful ex-con in Chad Hartigan’s This is Martin Bonner (trailer here), which screens
during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
Australian transplant in Reno, Martin Bonner is starting over. After a long period of unemployment, he now
works for a Christian outreach program for recently released prison inmates. Technically, he is not Travis Holloway’s
mentor, but he makes a tenuous connection when pinch-hitting for his assigned
volunteer. It is not that Holloway does
not like the devout Steve Helms. He is
simply more comfortable with Bonner.
Bonner is a film could
have gone one way or another. We quickly
learn Bonner was fired from his previous church job because of his
divorce. However, Hartigan never really
grinds that axe. Nor is the Evangelical
Helms presented in fanatical terms.
Instead, the film could be called a study of questioned faith in action. Frankly, it is offers some of the most mature
and nuanced discussions of Christianity in everyday practice you are likely to
see in any major film festival.
Eenhoorn’s performance as Bonner is arguably Oscar caliber (unquestionably so,
if Cooper and Jackman truly are so this year).
This man is not a saint. He can
even be a little prickly, but he is trying to do the right thing. Eenhoorn perfectly conveys that humanistic
temporizing. Likewise, as Holloway, Richmond
Arquette (yes, from the Arquette family) creates an unusually deep portrait of regret
and pathos. In fact, the entire ensemble
is small but powerful, especially including Sam Buchanan as Holloway’s
estranged daughter Diana.
is a modest, quiet film, by any standard of
measure. Yet, it has moments of rare
honesty. Aside from the scene of Bonner
lip-synching to his teenaged garage band’s old 8-track (which feels a little
too cute and calculated), Hartigan’s patience and sensitivity always pay-off
with surprising interest. Recommended
with a fair bit of enthusiasm for general audiences, This is Martin Bonner screens again Sunday (1/20), Tuesday (1/22),
and Friday (1/25) in Park City and next Saturday (1/26) in Salt Lake, as part
of the 2013 Sundance.
Labels: Religion in film, Sundance '13