Heck, I look at the scenes of "Maison," a short & sweet film that takes place in Bald Knob, Kentucky, and everything I see looks like it's from a completely different planet. I'm Canadian – so I can only imagine how lost this French dude must feel - breaking down at a gas station in the middle of rural America. Like, for real, this outsider pulls open the door to what seems like the only place in town for miles and miles, and there are a couple of people sitting on chairs on the inside of a GAS STATION - like they're waiting for a movie or their school day to start. Is this a town hall? I've never been to Bald Knob myself personally, but I'm not getting the sense that a ton of activity is happening in this town - from the outside looking into this window of humanity provided to us by Writer/Director Chris Easterly. Not that that's a bad thing, either.
To be truthful, it's that lack of activity that's probably going to work both for and against a short film like "Maison." Don't get me wrong – I liked this quite a bit. If you're asking me for my opinion about "Maison," I'd readily tell you that it's charming, sweet, and even funny in a heartwarming way at times - and that the film displays a level of kindness that I wish we'd all tap into throughout society. At the same time, I recognize that watching something with a critical eye is different from the way that the average everyday viewer/consumer might see something. Where I see a film that's about who we are and what we're truly about as human beings, others are going to see a film about a gas station where not a whole lot happens. Ultimately, both things can be true simultaneously; it just depends on who you are, what you see & how what you experience resonates inside you or doesn't, as the case may be.
Are there more undeniably entertaining ideas that Easterly could have taken on instead of what you'll see in "Maison?" Sure – I'm willing to concede that to you. That being said, I think what you'll find, in exchange for a more potentially enthralling theme, is a highly focused piece of filmmaking that dials in on a specific target and hits the mark of its ambitions. Think of "Maison" like seven minutes of "Chicken Soup For The Soul" – it's satisfying, and you feel better about the humanitarian wisdom in this story.
Essentially, Moussa (played perfectly by Patrick J. Mitchell) is seeking directions to get home – "Maison," if you will – and finding that there aren't exactly that many folks speaking French around Bald Knob, KY. While he's doing his best to communicate his needs to Danny, the guy at the general store counter (also played well by Lewis Wright Jr.), Moussa encounters his own side of the problem in not being able to understand what in tarnation Danny is trying to say about the route he needs to travel to the airport. In fact, it's one of the funniest and most charming scenes at the same time… you've got Danny doing his level best to help the guy out - but even the rest of us outsiders watching would have a tough time fully absorbing his hometown dialect – so Easterly cleverly puts up subtitles that say something quite different than what is being said. It's a great way to draw out some laughter and ease the tension that we all tend to feel when we're lost and seemingly a million miles away from the place we call "Maison."
They eventually haul out a map so that they can compromise between their different languages and sort out the details by simplified directions. And for a moment, everything is going to work out just fine. Moussa obtains the information he needs, and he's just about to be on his way, when BAM – all of a sudden, he's now got engine trouble as well. So he isn't going home or anywhere else for at least a little while. As Danny finishes his shift at the store and gets set to head back home himself, he also encounters a bit of car trouble and cues a string of new subtitles that help him explain what's going on to Moussa - as he wanders over to see what's going on.
Suppose you were a more cynical type of person. In that case, you might have to acknowledge that two spots of vehicular trouble in such a short timeframe might imply that there's a reason to just drive on through Bald Knob instead of stop there – or given that there's a bit of time that passes in between Moussa's car troubles & he still needs to get home – perhaps he played a role in Danny's tire going flat? Alright – I'll be fair – it's clear that nothing so devious is happening in the story of "Maison," so I'll drop the suspense. What you will find, though, is that there's a way that Moussa can help Danny and that Danny can help Moussa in return – and ain't that what life is really all about? Treat people how you'd want to be treated yourself and such? It's a good way to go about livin'.
Really, "Maison" is an endearing slice of life and doesn't pretend to be anything else. I don't know that I could argue on behalf of it being some kind of profound idea - that hasn't been done or explored in a variety of ways throughout the history of film, but I can certainly advocate on behalf of "Maison" being a very pleasant way to spend some time. I felt like Easterly shot this cleanly and clearly, and he did a stellar job of getting great performances out of his main actors in Patrick and Lewis. There are many positives here, one hundred percent. The number one ingredient he gets right is the amount of heart he adds to "Maison" – you feel the humanity & the sincerity present in this story at all times. I'm going with three and a half stars out of five – it's a highly satisfying film that's as endearing & heartwarming as the comfort of friendship - and the help you find when you need it most.