Wednesday, August 31, 2022

'Take the Night,' 'Forbearance' manage powerful stories on small budgets

As Hollywood moves over, under, and through the final dog days of summer (not to mention scouring for quality product to feed starving movie-goers), two small indies now making the pay-to-watch rounds display enough chutzpah, energy and smarts to earn recommendations right here.

First comes "Take the Night," a debut feature from writer, director and star Seth McTigue, whose tricky shuffling of brotherly love with envy-rich rivalry presents similar dynamics in two families on different ends of New York City's socio-economic spectrum.

McTigue himself does nice work on the blue-collar front, as a PTSD-suffering vet, leading "my last job" and a combination of clever and inefficient thieves. Certainly, it won't take long, though, to deduce where his goofy, tag-along brother (the scene-stealing Brennan Keel Cook) falls in this gang. 

Meanwhile, the pair of siblings on the extravagantly wealthy side of the city own the long-successful Chang Export Co., but there's apparently leadership jealousy at the top there, too. 

Why else would the big brother (Roy Huang), surely not the level-headed one in this clan, give their late dad's favorite son (Sam Song Li) the scare of his life by "surprising" him with an extremely disturbing birthday stunt? Kidnapping almost becomes the least of it all, as McTigue mixes some serious twists with a few outrageous turns while not really taking up even half your own night with his quick-moving crime drama.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some violence; 1:22; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

("Take the Night" can be found on Vudo, Prime Video, AppleTV+ and other places to watch movies.)

Speaking of serious, writer Cedric Gegel opts for a smaller role in his first big screen writing job. The often melancholy "Forbearance" has him as a kind of alienated son finding his way through mostly unspoken woes with his dad (Travis Hancock) and a solid kinship with his mom (Juli Tapken).

In fact, the minimal dialogue between Gegel's plot-prominent parents becomes one of the strengths in a script that features a woman ready to file divorce papers, then finds out her husband has three months to live -- at most! 

Such is life -- and death -- as the particularly strong Tapken, who might remind some of Edie Falco facially and even with disposition to match, carries the past, present and future on her visage throughout. Naturally, her character is juggling still-existing reasons for considering a permanent separation in the first place with profound feelings for her stricken husband of at least two decades.

For his part, Hancock carries a brave countenance, though his persistent and consistently blood-inducing cough, a result of the terminal illness, likely will be harder to watch for some than the prognosis delivered by his stern doctor (Vernon Welles, of "Mad Max 2" fame, among others).

Credit director Lana Read for keeping her cast -- and the story from Gegel, himself a cancer survivor -- together in all their primary and pivotal moments.

("Forbearance" is currently available on a number of VOD platforms.)

Not rated by MPAA; 1:48; $ $ $ out of $5

(Opening Sept. 2 in theaters: "Gigi & Nate," The Good Boss," and "Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul."

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