Sara Colangelo’s directorial debut tests the strength of one’s patience, but the collaterral damage is the fact, that “Little Accidents” is actually quite compulsive in the substance. The narrative stuffiness of Colangelo’s film leaves this piece of cinematography interesting for those, who expect a well-thought drama movie, drilling into the local-social problems, which emerge after a tragedy in the mine.
A small mining town is struck with a calamity when several miners starve to death in the local coal mine. The only survivor, Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holdbrook), is afterwards torn apart between saving the jobs of the local community in the mine or telling the truth about the roots of the tragedy. Simultaneously, a bereaved boy named Owen finds it hard to fit in with his peers and apparently, as an effect of a quarrel, he accidentally kills JT – son of the mine executive. The death of the boy then causes some irremediable changes in the lives of Amos, Owen and the executive’s wife – Diane Doyle (Elizabeth Banks).
Colangelo maneuvers in between the several subplots, from which some of them reveal the lack of her’s directorial skills, whilst others are matured enough to attract the attention. The accident in the mine is seemingly of great importance, but what really torments the director are those little, everyday problems, which reminisce a domino – started by an enormous calamity. The vexed society should tremble, frightened by the threat of mine’s closing, but instead everything is put on the shoulders of Amos – a naive, warmhearted miner, whose confession or its lack, shall be decisive. Holdbrook does his job fine and doses the drama, as his character evolves throughout the entire movie.
The superfluous confusion is thus generated by unforeseen actions taken by Diane. And fair enough, this one seems to be a rather cheap shot – although the deepening crisis in Doyles’ marriage is sketched coherently, it is hard to believe in this series of her ridiculous decisions. What’s more, although Holdbrook ‘s performance is exceptional, it seems there is not enough chemistry between him and Banks, which strengthens the overall perception of rather vague, artificial relationship. Far more interesting is the way Owen is copying with the alleged murder of TJ, which is nicely melted with the tension built up by the case, which haunts the whole town. Colangelo emphasizes the fact, that although the boy’s disappearance shakes the grounds, it is the politics involved in the coal mine accident, which take the lead role in the social life.
The director uses a grey-based palette of colors, as dingy as the town’s community and combines it with ominous, but rather repetitive soundtrack – it is a bit disappointing, taking into consideration, that Zarvos’ tracks were always quite unusual – the effect is a halfway artistic performance. The claustrophobic atmosphere of miners’ town is not a long shot from what we would expect from such a drama, but the narrative pace should have been a bit faster to fully take advantage of the brilliant camera work.
All in all, “Little Accidents” gathered some recognition during several film festivals, as Colangelo’s movie received eleven various nominations, from which the most remarkable ones would be Karlove Vary and Independent Spirit Awards. Although “Little Accidents” is not a groundbreaking debut, it paved the way for the emerging director nicely. All it takes for her, is to keep on working. I will not say I recommend this movie to everyone, but those, who find artistic movies far more entertaining than blockbusters – this one is a fair bargain.