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Florida Film Fest review: THIS IS MARTIN BONNER

April 4, 2013
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THIS IS MARTIN BONNER

★★★

This Is Martin Bonner needs festivals to survive. In the world of general releases, it wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s too plodding and empty, at least at first glance. But let it wash over you at its own steady pace and you might get sucked into its quiet, lonely world.

Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) has just moved to Reno, Nev., leaving behind two grown children and seemingly everything else he held dear. Financially and spiritually adrift after years spent devoted to his church, he’s found a new job helping prisoners make the transition from incarceration to freedom. It allows him to honor his faith while keeping a certain distance from it too. Also starting anew is Travis (Richmond Arquette), just released from prison after 12 years, trying to reconnect with his daughter and looking for a friend. He finds an unlikely one in Martin.

With his sophomore feature, director-writer Chad Hartigan has tackled a topic that is anything but sophomoric: facing the world, and yourself, alone. It’s tough to do at any age and under any circumstance, let alone as middle-aged men inventing new lives for themselves. Obvious and a bit amateurish at times, Martin Bonner could have fallen flat if not for Hartigan’s patient, panning camera and the touching and naturalistic, though unpolished, performances of Eenhoorn and Arquette.

Some may find the subtle Christian overtones off-putting or the overall piece passionless, more a photograph than a film. But allowed to slowly develop, it becomes a lovely snapshot.

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