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Big Significant Things
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by Jay Seaver

"Of significant quality."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2014: There are many ways to have a good road trip; you can do it by sticking close to a map and itinerary, let your whims guide you, or do something in between. There are many ways to mess one up, too, and while looking down on the places you go and people you meet there doesn't exactly ruin things, it can make the experience kind of hollow in retrospect. Not having that attitude, I think, is what makes "Big Significant Things" a small gem; it's not about putting anybody in their place.

The fellow making the road trip is Craig Harrison (Harry Lloyd), a young man from New Jersey about to move to San Francisco with his fiancee Allison. She's already out there looking at houses, but he is driving through the South, on his own despite telling her he's chauffeuring people for work. And while he's kind of enjoying just looking at several World's Largest Things, what really winds up catching his eye is Ella (Krista Kosonen), a Finn playing guitar and singing at a bar's open mic night who seems just as put off place as he does.

Craig has a specific end point in mind, although it looks like his brother Joel (like Allison, heard on the phone but not seen) is not going to meet him there. That's important; it marks him as trying to get back to something as opposed to escaping while also highlighting that he's struggling with something that neither he nor his loved ones quite understand. Maybe his life just seems to be moving too fast; the graduation tassels hanging from his rear-view mirror are only three or four years old. Or maybe he's worried about how this move will make him a part of her life rather than the other way around, considering where their families live. Writer/director Bryan Reisberg never addresses Craig's primary issue directly, but he also doesn't do much to hint that Craig is running from something especially terrible, and making it easy to project ones own anxieties (present or remembered) onto the situation doesn't hurt.

He comes up with a lot of well-crafted moments too, something that's essential for a movie whose protagonist isn't going to stay in one place for very long. As often as not, it's an unadorned moment from local noon-actors - a pregnant woman finding great satisfaction in a well-crafted rocking chair or a convenience store owner giving Craig the stink-eye for buying some teenagers beer. He also at least seems to do a nice job of building a story that still works even if the most important parts are kept out of sight - there is, I suspect, a quite interesting movie to be made about Ella, her likely boyfriend Travis (James Ricker II), and her friend Grace (Sylvia Grace Crim) in which Lloyd would just have a cameo role.

He's a nearly-every-scene lead here, though, and quite good. He has the challenge of making a character who is basically leaving his girlfriend in the lurch likable enough to be worth the audience's time, and he mostly does it by giving Craig a genuine sort of natural curiosity that is quite appealing even when it starts to drift toward being forced or even the tiniest bit patronizing. Lloyd uses that as a contrast to fits of anxiety that feel both general and specific. His apparent openness contrasts well with Krista Kosonen's tendency to play Ella reserved, and she does a nice job of projecting that this girl is dissatisfied but the details of it are none of anyone's damn business. She defrosts subtly, since Ella knows anything that happens with Craig is strictly temporary.

That's a bit more melancholy than the film actually feels. Reisberg and company are not opposed to letting the audience enjoy the trip, and there's something very appealing about how this movie puts a Yankee in the South as a bit of a fish out of water without getting confrontational about it in any way. It's a nice bit of background that enhances the story of Craig feeling a bit lost despite having a map - a story that the movie tells very well.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26331&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/30/14 14:39:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 SXSW Film Festival For more in the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 San Diego Film Festival For more in the 2014 San Diego Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  24-Jul-2015

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Jul-2015


Directed by
  Bryan Reisberg

Written by
  Bryan Reisberg

Cast
  Harry Lloyd
  Krista Kosonen



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