FILM INFO: Penitent is a bleak tale about the soul crushing effects of guilt and a man driven to seek any way out of his inescapable torture.
WRITTEN BY: Brian Stynes DIRECTED BY: Brian Stynes GENRE: Drama TIME: 74 minutes
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Penitent ( 2017 )
Feature Film Review
Many of us talk about karma every other day. What goes around comes around. He'll get what is coming to him, etc. What happens however, if something bad happens that truly is an accident? What happens when a person is truly hit with a double or triple whammy? Is this the start of that cycle we call karma? Or is this the end result of an earlier point in life badly lived? For Jason, a horrible driving accident caused the death of a child. He was driving. Although stone cold sober, maybe he shouldn't have allowed himself to drive at that time, considering his Mother had just passed away. For that, he will forever blame himself. What's more? A friend had stashed some drugs in his car, and once found, Jason ended up spending four years in prison. Hows that for bad luck? "Penitent" takes place once Jason is released, and the narrative revolves around his attempts to get his life back. Maybe find some way to forgive himself and find redemption. Through all this we, the viewers, get to witness some strange friendships, some brutal choices, and as I wrote above, maybe... just maybe some redemption. A balancing of the books, so to speak. All this is presented in a gritty, real way that both works for the film at times, and against it during others. To sum things up in a nutshell? "Penitent" is a dreadful film. Not dreadful in a bad movie way... rather dreadful in a sad way. The ending, for me, made perfect sense... but I hated every second of it. I wrote about balancing those heavenly books? In this regard, Jason not only balances them... but the way I see it... he adds an extra point for himself. Yet things did not work out the way I had hoped. Maybe this was the only way for him to find peace, in writer, director, Brian Stynes mind. Maybe it was logical. Still however, it was a sad ending. Maybe more-so because it showcases real life, where things do not always turn out golden. One things for sure. In order for me to hate the ending as much as I did... I must have really enjoyed the journey. No question about that. Once you get yourself into this flick, there's no going back. Now, this is where things get interesting. "Penitent" is one of those low budget indie films, that if conditions were slightly different, I would have rated it a four or higher. The pieces were all here. A good story. A good video edit... mostly good anyhow. A perfect running length and an excellent cast portraying these "real" feeling characters. The casting within the indie film world has surprised me lately. Micro budgeted film no longer feels like a bunch of friends who have never acted... playing parts. Well, maybe I'm being a little generous... so let me just say that "this" film didn't feel that way. I should also point out that I'm not just talking about this films leading man. I'm talking about the supporting cast, straight down to the extras and recurring extras. Everyone shown onscreen felt real. Like they had been real people secretly filmed. So what am I talking about when I write about the conditions of this film? It's the budget. It's the gear. It's the quality. Had a lot of the shots been steadier, had some true light setups been used... and had a better camera been utilized... this would have been that much better. I understand, and respect, that this was an indie low budget film. However, as a viewer... I don't care. Maybe that's not quite right. I, personally, do care. I completely understand the indie process and the low budget film world. The average Joe however, does not. They either like it... or they don't. They don't care if it's low budget or infused with ten million. I always have to keep that in mind and I've seen many... many... low budget films that "look" so much more expensive. I know it's possible. Still, "Penitent" shows itself good enough to earn a personal rating that is well above average - in my books. It is true, that getting an average viewer to really give this film a go may prove tough, for the first fifteen or twenty minutes. If they stick around past that point however, they will forget it's a low budget movie. If "Penitent" can keep them in their seats that long, they'll be hooked. That's the magic of this film. It gets "that" good. So. Whoever comes across this short write-up, and is maybe considering checking out this movie, let me write this: As far as movies go, this is an excellent entry. Give it a few minutes and let it give you another hour. Just under. Further proof that you don't need a studio budget to tell an interesting and entertaining story. Sometimes it just may just take you a few minutes to adjust... but once you do, you're in for a treat.