Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gaby Dellal's Somber "Angels Crest"

Playing in Theaters

Gaby Dellal's Somber "Angels Crest"

(from 5/18/11)
Angels Crest is a small, Recession-hit working-class town in the Rockies. A young father, Ethan (Thomas Dekker) takes his three-year-old son on an excursion into the mountains. His son falls asleep while strapped in the safety seat in back. Ethan takes a brief nature walk into the woods and when he returns his son is nowhere to be found and there is a blizzard coming in. When he finds his son, he is dead. A local prosecutor with a tragic past (Jeremy Piven) wants to put the devastated Ethan on trial, dividing the town. The prosecutor hopes to get help from the dead boy's alcoholic mother, Cindy (Lynn Collins), but while she has a lot of anger toward Ethan, she suffers with him and knows he was a loving father. That's the basic premise of Gaby Dellal's small, somber, marvelously-acted, heartfelt UK/Canadian feature. With Mira Sorvino, Elizabeth McGovern, and Kate Walsh in supporting roles, it was shown at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. I met the enthusiastic Dellal (On a Clear Day) at a party just before she was about to leave to see a play. Here is the interview we squeezed in:
Danny Peary: The first thing I want to say about your movie is that Lynn Collins is great!
Gaby Dellal: I'm so pleased that you just went straight to saying that about her. I think my whole cast was great,
but Lynn broke my heart. The last 6 to 9 months my life has been editing this film and watching the footage and I can say Lynn is a superb actress. She should be a mega-star.
DP: I looked at her list of credits and she's done a lot, even True Blood, but I didn't recognize her.
GD: She's also never looked as good as she looked in my movie. The part was kind of made for her. She went to a place that was amazing.
DP: I am familiar with your lead actor, Thomas Dekker. I was a fan of The Sarah Connor Chronicles on television. He's talented and likeable.
GD: I agree and he's just a baby!
DP: Your movie was adapted from a book?
GD: Yes, it's from a novel by Leslie Schwartz, which was very different. I read the novel about four years ago. My way was to read it once and just take what the essence was for me. So originally it was about an older guy losing his son, but I wanted it to be more original and for some reason I got really stuck on the idea of examining what it would be like for a young guy to lose a child. I remember when I was 21.
DP: For one thing, a younger person would be seen as more irresponsible.
GD: But I think once you''re a parent, whether youre 21 or 16 or 50 or...
DP: No, he's a great father. We see that. But I'm saying other people may assume he's irresponsible just because he's young.
GD: I know. What I was interested in was the strong love and connection between a parent and a child. You'd think it's only born from the responsibilities of an older being, but there was something that really interested me about a young boy just being totally broken by the loss of his small child. When I was 21 I had a tragedy not like that, but a family tragedy, I buried my sister. And all my colleagues at college couldn't understand the depth of my despair. I remember I went to school in California, and it felt like a culturally different place for me. One of my girlfriends said, "Oh, what a bummer your sister died,
" and thats it.. She didn't have the capacity to understand where I was going to in my grief, I suppose. So it always stayed with me, and when I got a hold of this story, I said that I want the father to be 21. I want to examine the pain of a 21-year-old--and you see it in the scene Ethan returns to the garage and remembers his son playing there and losing it. Which is what I went through, but luckily I haven't been through that pain.
DP: The love of their child and their pain over his death is something Ethan and Cindy share despite having split up as a couple. Nobody else can understand...
GD: When Ethan finds the baby, and I cut to Cindy in the car--I don't want to keep dwelling on Lynn but I mean she's so spectacular. I don't think anyone has really tapped her talent yet, I really don't.
DP: But you did.
GD: I know, I'm really proud of that.
DP: Okay, here's my one possible gripe I don't know if it's a gripe or not, but I'm going to ask you about it. In the film, Ethan kills himself while everyone is in the court waiting for his trial to begin. But what if he goes to trial? I thought he would go on trial, get off, and then still kill himself. Was that ending ever a consideration?
GD: No, but it's a good one. It is a good one.
But I thought enough was said when Elizabeth McGovern's character tells Ethan, "You'll get 30 days, that's not so bad." I thought that encapsulated it.
DP: That's right, that sums up the trial if it had taken place.
GD: But what I sort of loved about the way I ended it, and the way we devised it, was the notion that everybody's there in court, and they have no idea that at the same time, he's gone and they're still waiting. Those moments appeal to me.
DP: Just this last thing about the array of characters that you've assembled. They're different and in different combinations. Is any of that from the book, or did you and your screenwriter [Catherine Trieschmann] devise all that?
GD: There were many more characters in the book. I whittled it down. The lesbian couple was there, but they were always the comic relief. Kate Walsh's character was the gutsy woman that liked Ethan the whole story. She was the only one right on the periphery who has an opinion, a strong opinion, saying, He lost his kid, of course hes unhappy about it. She's the voice of reason, really.
DP: One of the surprises in the story is that Cindy has an opportunity to crush her ex-husband by providing damaging testimony to the prosecutor but she chooses not to.
GD: She's the only one who redeems herself in the end. She wont benefit from something so tragic, but she will grow as a result. She might stop drinking one day--that's what you feel, I hope.
DP: What about forgiveness where does that fit into this? There's redemption, you say, for Cindy.
GD: I think that's also there when Jeremy Piven's prosecutor, who also lost a child, bursts into tears. You know when his assistant says, "The boys pleading guilty, so it's good news, right?" And he says no, and he goes outside and sits on the playground and bursts into tears. I believe he's experiencing a journey himself that involves redemption and forgiveness.
DP: Good luck with your movie!

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