By Sidney Williams, Contributing Writer
In her directorial debut, Anne Hamilton’s “American Fable” is an intriguing attempt by a young director to incorporate mysticism and thriller-like scenes into the simple backstory of a family’s financial struggles. Influenced by the likes of Terrence Malick and Guillermo del Toro, Hamilton delivers picturesque shots of farmland and eerie dreams from the point of view of 11-year-old protagonist Gitty (Peyton Kennedy).
Preoccupied with the future of his farm, Gitty’s father Abe (Kip Pardue) agrees to work with a mysterious woman named Vera. All he has to do, apparently, is lock a man named Jonathan in the family silo for a while. Gitty first meets Vera at a fair, watching the woman share quiet words with her father.
By this point, Gitty has already discovered the mysterious Jonathan locked in the silo, but is yet to understand the complexity of the situation. As the story evolves, the love Gitty has for her father becomes the main point of contention for her secret friendship with Jonathan. But as is to be expected of a child who has the gift of a flourishing and curious imagination, Gitty converses with Jonathan, and eventually rappels down into the silo to play chess and be told stories.
The lack of care for personal safety electrifies the viewer, promising a thriller, but Hamilton fails to deliver any particularly heart stopping incidents. With the exception of Gitty’s brother Martin, who appears to be more than a little sociopathic and constantly threatens Gitty, the rest of “American Fable” is a predictable outtake of passive American Midwest.
Despite having the basis for an exciting plot, the film lacks the substantial nudge to become a captivating montage of magic and fear. The soundtrack is haunting and nicely supplements Kennedy’s expressive acting that draws the viewer into what could have been a surreal, fantastic story. Gitty’s sporadic dreams and visions of a woman with horns on horseback only echo del Toro’s mastery, but show promise of Hamilton’s aspiration to explore complex themes of violence and mythology and a child’s innocent perspective of the world.
As breathtaking as the cinematography might be, “American Fable” isn’t a narrative success and leaves both the characters and their actions lacking depth and purpose in the end. The scattering of fables and poems (such as Aesop’s Fable of the lion and the mouse, and Yeats’ “The Second Coming”) falter in their coherent application to the films storyline, leaving the intrigued viewer more confused than before. It’s an auspicious start for Hamilton, who clearly values the importance of camera work and ambiance, but falls short of delivering a satisfying conclusion to her tale.
“American Fable” will be released in select theaters on Feb. 17.
Email Sidney Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.