by j. brotherlove
Writer/Director: John G. Young
Strand Releasing (2005)
Darien Sills-Evans as Andrew
Wayne Lamont Sims as Martin
Pamela Stewart as Jeannette
Margaret Berkwith as Sierra
The Reception is a refreshing and unconventional film, written and directed by John G. Young (who also created the underground favorite Parallel Sons in 1995). The film opens on the lives of Jeannette and Martin, an interracial couple who live in a large country home in upstate New York.
Jeanette, a white French woman, spends her days armed with a glass of red wine, consumed with her anger at men and love for Martin. Martin, a black American artist, takes long retreats to the cottage house to paint when he’s not catering to Jeannette’s drunken antics. Their quiet lives are interrupted by a surprise visit from Jeannette’s estranged daughter, Sierra, and her new husband, Andrew, a black man.
The Reception doesn’t take long to reveal something is up. For starters, Martin is gay. Also, Sierra’s sudden impetus to reconcile with her mother is shrouded by another secret. Prompted by Jeannette’s decision to throw her daughter and new, son-in-law a reception, the next couple of days give way to a host of revelations about thwarted desires, dysfunctional relationship and derailed dreams.
Despite some technical glitches, the film has a great look (mostly due to the panoramic winter scenes). The dialogue is smart and the story beyond the grasp of traditional Hollywood fare. The characters are layered and the acting solid for the most part (Sims and Stewart are standouts). Those addicted to CGI trickery or fantastic car chases and explosions may have a hard time maintaining focus. However the film is a compelling, character-driven gem, examining how people navigate through complicated relationships. There’s even a black man love scene (which, in 2006, is still rare to see).
You may remember Darien Sills-EVans from his TV show appearances and my review of his directorial debut X-Patriots (sadly, still unavailable as far as I can tell). I enjoyed his performance in X-Patriots better but I find his choice of film roles dealing with complicated relationships of inter/racial and sexual identity interesting.
As an independent film, The Reception is particularly exceptional considering it was shot in eight days on digital video for about $5,000. Hollywood really needs to pick up their game when you consider the dreck they shell out for millions. John G. Young ends the film’s commentary with advice for aspiring filmmakers:
"Go make movies any way you can… Use your resources… Call you friends. And, If you have a good story… the film will shine based on the story and the people you put in it."
It’s a nice little film. I saw it when it first came out and may purchase a copy as well.
Loved it!!! A story about love between two black gay men. How often does that happen?
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