Impressive film from Allison Anders
eurotrashgirl | 01/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Things Behind the Sun tells the story of an up-and-coming singer, Sherry McGrale (Kim Dickens), whose haunting, biographical song is starting to get regular airplay on college radio airwaves. The song, about a rape she experienced in middle school, may be her ticket to stardom. But there is a lot standing in her way, as she has never fully recovered from the experience. If anything, her symptoms and problems are getting worse by the year (she even shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder). She?s never heard of EBay, doesn't know one of her favorite rock singers is dead. She is in that space that some people go to, that "In Between" space between being fully alive, and almost dead, or at least numb to the point of it (a Pink Floyd song comes to mind here). We meet her in this space and it is our true hope as viewers that she can find some sense of light in all the darkness, some reason to get past it, and that she will be able to move on to a more fulfilling life, a second chance.When the film begins, an LA rock journalist for the fictional 'Vinyl Fetish' magazine (helmed by ?Pete,? played by Rosanna Arquette), is assigned an article about McGrale and her new song. But not just 'any' journalist. Owen (Gabriel Mann) knew Sherry in middle school, she was his first girlfriend. And not only that, he knows the story behind the song, as he experienced the event first-hand as well. The experience has like-wise haunted him for years, in different, but not necessarily less significant ways. When he admits to his editor that he knows who raped Sherry, she immediately sends him to Florida to cover the story. He goes with that intent, but there?s more to the story than that. When Owen and Sherry were children, they bonded immediately over their shared love of music, and became fast friends. Their mutual appreciation for music has only grown since, and both have built their lives around it. Sherry's talent as a singer-songwriter is undeniable, and Owen is enjoying a successful run as a senior editor at his magazine. His life, with a couple of irritating (though important) exceptions, is coming along fine. Sherry, however, though on the cusp of 'making it' in the music world, is held back by the haunting trauma of her rape, which has led her into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, careless promiscuity, and failed relationships. We see that her success as an artist too, so close at hand, is only possible if she can find some way to deal with what has happened to her. She has been emotionally damaged to such an extent that a normal life has become almost impossible. Sherry has a savior of sorts in the dedicated, honestly devoted Chuck (the explosive and amazing Don Cheadle ? his acting is *incredible* in this film). But there's only so much he can do. He cleans up the mess when she drinks, makes sure she eats and gets to her gigs on time, not to mention attending her AA meetings, but beyond a certain point, saving his "baby girl" is beyond his hands. When Owen travels to Cocoa Beach to interview Sherry (and come to terms with their shared past), the opportunity presents itself for them both to find a way to heal, however difficult. Sherry's difficulties haven't ruined merely her own life. The repercussions of the sexual abuse have rippled out into the lives of Owen, Chuck, Sherry's band members, and any of Sherry or Owen's sexual partners. Their scars run deep. Eric Stoltz aptly plays the leader of the rapists, Dan, who has a repulsive and upsetting disregard for even the most sacred of personal boundaries and concerns. We watch the destruction stemming from the brutal attack affect each of the characters like a line of ?trauma dominoes,? and we see his inability to accept and take responsibility for his actions, and we hate him for it. Dickens' performance is pitch-perfect, and she lets go of any movie-star pretensions to let us see Sherry as genuinely bruised and battered, genuinely broken-hearted.Director Allison Anders tells this story with remarkable realism, and the soundtrack (most notably a tailored score by Sonic Youth, several pieces by the Left Banke, a heart-breaking cover of a Smiths song (by Mike Johnson), and some amazing songs by Anders' daughter, Tiffany), is finely tailored to the events in the film, creating a rich and emotional viewing experience. The film was shot on digital video in the space of about 20 days, but the result is anything but sloppy or rushed. This film is remarkable, and will leave its mark on its viewers for a long time to come. The impressive acting, the muted/bright colors and the haunting emotive force of the film?s music come together to create an enduring, important, memorable film. A difficult, but ultimately beautiful and inspiring, journey. Recommended. This film is up for three Independent Spirit Awards, Best Feature Film, Best Actress (Dickens), and Best Supporting Actor (Cheadle). (The impact of this film is made even more significant when one realizes it is based in part on the real-life rape experienced by director Allison Anders when growing up in Cocoa Beach, Florida. And in an amazing turn of events, the rape in the film was shot in the very same house in which Anders experienced her trauma. (I may be wrong, but I think Anders makes a cameo in one of the AA scenes, towards the end of the film.)"
Outstanding Film, Great Performances
Reviewer | 02/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Who we are as individuals, and what we become, is nothing more than who we have always been and will always be; but within the psyche there are paths that lead to a myriad number of possible destinations, and often the choice of which to take is not ours. More often than not, circumstances-- some beyond our control, some not-- will determine which road we follow, and in our youth, even a single, significant emotional experience can dictate who we become and where life will take us. A shadow cast over one in adolescence is not easily dispelled, and all the beauty of life to that person may forever be elusive or clouded, hidden by a dark secret of the heart which prevents that person from ever being whole or capable of stepping out into the light of day. "Things Behind the Sun," written by Allison Anders and Kurt Voss, and directed by Anders, is an examination of the causes and effects of journey's taken that are not of our own choosing, but which nevertheless define who we are. It explores the complexities of human nature and the inescapable dictates of fate that make each of us unique; it's a study of survival and need, and the struggle of attempting to extirpate oneself from the darkness while reaching out to the light-- a light perhaps never offered and ever denied. Owen (Gabriel Mann), a Los Angeles based writer for a magazine that covers the rock scene, becomes involved with the story of a young singer in Florida, Sherry (Kim Dickens), who has just been arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Sherry's band has risen beyond garage status or playing local Legion halls, but 120 people in the audience at a gig in some small dive they still consider good. They've been getting some notice, though, with a song gaining popularity on college campuses in the area, and Owen has a personal interest, also: They are old childhood friends. So Owen heads to Florida for the story. But he knows even before he leaves that what he's after isn't really the story, but a catharsis-- for Sherry as well as himself-- to relieve the pall cast over their lives by a haunting incident that occurred when they were only fourteen-years-old, and which Owen hopes may alter Sherry's self-destructive lifestyle. It's a journey through which he will seek to change the course determined for them so long ago by forces beyond their control. He has no idea where it will lead them, but he knows he has to try; try to repair damage that just may be irreparable. Extraordinarily crafted and delivered by Allison Anders, this film is intensely personal and affecting. The way it was written, filmed, acted-- everything-- has an honesty that rings true every single moment. And the way it is presented-- the pace, timing, the gradual way the information is revealed-- is impeccable. With this film Anders bares her soul, as well as that of her characters, to tell the story. She takes you into those dark corners we've all known in one way or another, those sometimes so brief-within-a-whole-lifetime, yet defining moments we'd probably just as soon forget, but can't, and exposes them for what they are: The appointed time in which Evil insinuated itself into our hearts and pierced it so deeply that the bleeding will never stop. That moment in which the soul is branded and scarred and penetrated so thoroughly that the rest of your life is spent treating the wound. It's a rare film that goes far beyond being mere entertainment, and may actually serve as a catharsis for someone who has experienced the darkness it so succinctly illuminates. And, in the same vein as "You Can Count On Me" or "Sling Blade," it says so much for the importance of independent film and the truth that can be found outside the dominant studio system. There are some remarkable performances in this film, beginning with Kim Dickens as Sherry, whose deep, unpretentious and detailed presentation of her character is as good as it gets. It's dismaying that a performance and a film like this can be lost so easily amid the Hollywood shuffle. And under closer scrutiny, the work Dickens does here gets even better. There's not a single moment when she is on screen that is false; not a blink of her eye nor a nod of her head. Everything she does is honest, and it makes Sherry not only believable, but very real and very human. What she does here is not only entirely effective, but pure in every sense. And like with Bjork in "Dancer In the Dark," you have to question the absence of an Oscar nomination for it. Another dark corner over which we have no control. Gabriel Mann (very reminiscent of a young James Spader here) gives an excellent performance, as well, and develops his character with subtle precision. Like Dickens, he comes across in such an unaffected manner that it really brings his character to life. And it's one of the things that makes this film work so well-- the fact that the characters are so very real and true-to-life. Moreover, it demonstrates what a talented actor can do in the hands of a gifted director. Not to be outdone by his costars, Don Cheadle turns in the kind of performance we've come to expect from him, as Chuck, the manager of Sherry's band. He's a talented actor and a definite asset to this film. And it must be noted that Eric Stoltz, with limited screen time, turns in what is arguably the best performance of his career, as Owen's brother, Dan. "Things Behind the Sun" is a triumph for Anders, who not only has exemplary insights into human nature, but knows how to transfer them to the screen. This is a film that gradually draws you in and involves you emotionally; and ultimately, it provides a genuinely memorable experience."
Dextra L. Suggs | Bucca, Iraq | 05/20/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I usually always see anything that stars the slightly trashy-for-some-reason-always-sexy Rosanna Arquette. It's a fetish and I'm getting help for it. And Don Cheadle has methodically established himself as a bankable Hollywood talent. I also love the earnestness of independent films. Although not many people have seen this film, it showcases a performance from Don Cheadle that could've served as an aggregate preview of his future work. I must admit though, I'm not quite yet a Gabriel Mann fan. I think he sometimes comes off as a skinny, spaced-out younger version of James Spader. For those of you who don't appreciate independent films, you may not enjoy this movie, because it does take a while to come together. But with a little patience this film delivers. This film also shows a bit of courage, as it delves into some of the rarely talked about fallout only rape victims can identify with; namely, the subsequent preferring or needing of abusive situations for sexual satisfaction and the revolving door of guilt that scenario consequently opens. Although Things Behind the Sun is predictable in spots, the strength and depth with which the characters are explored makes this film an underrated winner."