• Film reviews

    #601 – The Penitent Man (2010)

    The Penitent Man (2010)

    Film review #601

    Director: Nicholas Gyeney

    SYNOPSIS: A psychologist with troubles with his finances and marriage is visited by a long term patient who makes a startling claim – he is from the future, and he has travelled back to prevent the discovery he made from ever being used, as it brought about the destruction of society as we know it…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Penitent Man is a 2011 film. Psychologist Dr. Jason Pyatt is visited by a patient, Mr. Darnell, who he has been sporadically over the past year. He confides in the doctor a secret: that he is from the future, where an invention he made to look through time has caused the collapse of society, and he has travelled back to prevent his discovery from being made. The film is essentially a drama film, with the two main characters sitting and talking, followed by two other characters sitting talking…essentially, there is a lot of dialogue in this film. You may be constantly waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. If the dialogue was captivating or explored ideas or concepts with some depth, it would be interesting, but it barely scrapes the surface of its ideas; instead just leaving things as generalities. The fact that nothing is really shown could generate an interesting sense of ambiguity about whether the man is telling the truth, but in the opening scene we see him in the future and time travel, so it just eliminates that avenue for the film to build on.

    The whole film feels very amateur-ish, making it feel like someone saw The Room and took it as a “how-to” for filmmaking. The aforementioned scenes of flat dialogue don’t really develop the characters or story, and there’s a severe lack of purpose or direction. The film is also extremely heavy-handed with it’s imagery, and is obsessed with close-ups. For example, the beginning is filled with close-ups of wedding rings on the characters fingers and other paraphernalia to establish them, but it just doesn’t seem really necessary. Another issue is that the plot is entirely predictable, and unfolds exactly as you think it will: you’ll easily guess who Mr. Darnell really is, and who his friend was who tried to stop him. Again, there’s a heavy-handedness and inexperience that destroys any sense of tension or subtlety.

    Lance Henriksen as Mr Darnell is the only real good actor in this film, but even then, he feels misdirected, and working with a poor script. his scenes with Dr Pyatt (Lathrop Walker) feel so uneven because of the chasm of talent between them. Scenes between other characters are completely devoid of interest, and no one seems to know what to do with the camera during these long scenes, and it sometimes just focuses on a character who is being spoken to, which is very odd. It’s easy to sum up this film as a very amateur and misguided attempt at being a smart film: the acting is dire, the camerawork lacks direction, the plot is predictable, the imagery is heavy-handed, and again, it really feels like someone took The Room as a guide for how to make films. There’s nothing really redeemable about the film, or anything interesting to take away from it, as it’s dull characters and completely predictable plot just leave you waiting for the film to end.