Women on Top // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 24th, 2010
The two will meet.
It saddens me to say that I am rarely surprised by independent movies, especially ones that come packaged like Junction. This is a film that advertises itself on the strength of its narrative about a girl discovering the "dark secrets" of her family history. Typically, "dark secret" movies revolve around alcoholism and abuse, and Junction has its share of those elements. However, it is set apart by the well-above-average competence on the part of everyone involved in the film, as well as the few twists the film makes to the "dark secrets" formula.
Michaela (co-scripter April Wade) is a budding photojournalist in need of a strong story that will land her the job which will get her away from her abusive and alcoholic mother. Her long-estranged father shows up from behind bars to let Michaela know that she has siblings she was previously unaware of. Tracking them down becomes the story she's been looking for. All goes well as she finds her long-lost sister: she's happy, in a relationship, and newly pregnant. After taking some snaps, Michaela set out to find her brother, and the revelation of his identity will change Michaela's life forever.
I can't get over just how flat-out competent everything about Junction is. I'm used to low-budget movies that look horrible and are obviously acted by whatever warm body was in the vicinity from a script that might as well have been scribbled on the back of a pizza box. Junction starts out with a pretty brutal piece of violence committed by Michaela on another woman, and, despite the extreme nature of the scenes, neither actress strains to overplay her part. This sets the tone for the rest of the film. April Wade as Michaela brings a down-to-earth realism to her role that helps the audience digest the sometimes fanciful bits of plotting (like the long lost father revealing heretofore unknown siblings, and the bit where Michaela only gets to learn about one sibling at a time).
I've often said (and I'm not alone) the one true weapon any indie filmmaker has is time to write the script. Unless the filmmaker gets that right there's no hope for the rest of the production no matter how good the actors. Wade and her co-screenwriters (James Ryan and Lira Kellerman) have produced a screenplay that avoids many of the pitfalls that plague indie filmmakers. Sure there are a few awkward moments, like the stereotypical drunk mother and criminal father, but the dialogue is generally more tolerable than many films of this genre and budget.
Junction is not, however, a perfect film. I'm not a huge fan of the central conceit that drives the plot. I don't want to reveal too much, but Michaela discovers some things about her siblings that don't sit well with her. While her unease is natural, I don't think it was played quite well enough to lead the story where it ends up. I also found Michaela a bit hard to relate to as a character. She obviously has some admirable traits, but she seemed to meek to be a hero but too capable to be totally sympathetic. I also found myself a little less emotionally invested in the film than was the intention of the filmmakers. Although I followed Michaela's journey, I didn't feel particularly invested in it. Junction is a film that depends heavily on the attitude of the audience for its success.
Verdict was sent a screener of Junction, so I can't comment on final specs or extras. What I can say, however, is that the film looked good on the disc I received. The competence I mentioned in the acting and writing extended to the cinematography and editing as well. The picture demonstrates the film's low budget roots, but the film is always watchable. The audio is a little less impressive, but it does a fine job with dialogue and atmospheric effects. There were no extras on the disc I received.
Junction will like feel familiar to fans of independent family dramas, but with excellence both behind and in front of the camera, genre fans should definitely check this one out. The average viewer might be turned off of the "dark secrets" in Michaela's life, as well as by the violence those secrets lead to, but the emotional journey might still be a rewarding one.
Junction may unearth some dark secrets in Michaela's past, but it's pretty clear the film is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Women on Top
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated