In the windswept realms of Independent Cinema, its denizens have amassed many old adages to keep themselves on the straight and narrow, yet at times they’ve failed to remember them as they are tempted into the snares of the Dark Baron of regional distribution. “To Use Found Footage is to do the Devil’s Work” is one, as is “Gratuitous nudity cannot cover the holes of a plot” yet above all these there is one that should be carved into stone and that is: “Never turn a short into a feature”. Thankfully Little Accidents (2014) has continued to justify that saying saving us the hassle of having to carve a new epitaph.
Set in a West Virginia coal mining town in the aftermath of a mine collapse, the story focuses on Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holbrook) the now disabled sole survivor of the collapse, Diana Doyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wife of one the mines managers, and teenager Owen Briggs (Jacob Lofland) the son of one of the dead miners. The tragedy of the mine begets a tragedy in the town when Owen is involved in an altercation with Diana’s son, leading to the son’s accidental death and hiding of the body. Meanwhile Amos is caught between telling the truth about management shenanigans, which will result in the mine’s closure, killing the town’s main source of employment, and lying to protect the mining company, a betrayal of the men who died. Growing estranged from her husband as the weeks drag on, Diana starts an affair with Amos, all the while Owen looks after his Downs Syndrome brother.
Sounds like a good movie, right? Wrong. There is no overarching plot to this movie, no goals, hopes or even emotional payoff. Instead of a plot arch we get three plot lines with little to no character development, just that odd way of talking in a stern fixed way when emotional, the same way a peeved chemistry teacher might, as the film plods along.
Any of the plot lines could have been used to create the main story. What is in there can be built upon, the breakdown of Diana’s marriage, Amos’ attempts to do the right thing while readjusting to life, or the best one; Owen trying to emotionally support his mother and brother in the face of his father’s death, all the while lugging around the guilt of involuntary manslaughter. Instead what we get is a movie as thin as a rat that has been ran over and just as enjoyable.
Little Accidents has actually enraged me, not because of is poorly spread story with one-dimensional background characters but because it could have been a really great movie. It is full of missed potential and story threads left dangling in front of our eyes to torment us. If it was longer, even by an extra half hour to flush out the characters, tighten the threads and add some plot then we could have an excellent sleeper hit on our hands. It’s beautifully shot, cinematographer Rachel Morrison has crafted an excellent piece that captures the careless beauty of a small town but with a story that goes from dreary to depressing to dull it is just so much wasted effort. Sara Colangelo has talent as a director just not here.
Go back, cut out Diana, make Amos a subplot and focus on the kid.
2 / 5
Dir: Sara Colangelo
Scr: Sara Colangelo
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland
Prd: Jason Michael Berman, Anne Carey, Thomas B. Fore, Summer Shelton
DOP: Rachel Morrison
Music: Marcello Zarvos
Run time: 105 mins
Little Accidents is currently available on demand