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New Review – Chain Link

April 16, 2008

As a first film by Dylan Reynolds, Chain Link is quite an impressive start. The story is about a recent inmate, Anthony, who tries to rebuild his life with a new job and to reconnect with his son and ex-girlfriend. A character driven film, it is the kind of story I am predisposed to like anyway.

According to the filmmaker’s website, “the film is an attempted snap shot at a particular world and the individuals that comprise it.” It is about how one man’s choices affect others around him in the present and future. In only one day with this muddled group of individuals, we get to see quite a bit of the social dynamics that go into daily life.

The film begins early in the morning, before Anthony can start his new job at the junk heap. He trades words with his mother and then with the local sheriff.

It doesn’t take long to see that Anthony’s biggest problem is not that he is an ex-con; it’s his opinionated vocalizations that cause quite a bit of friction. Something doesn’t seem quite right. After work he tries to connect with his son and trades words with his ex-girlfriend, played by Yassmin Alers. She begrudgingly allows him to take his son out for a couple of hours.

The characters progress primarily through dialogue, the actions are not nearly as important, which is lovely for a writer to see. There are moments that are awkward because Reynolds stays in the scene just a moment longer than you would think, making it feel like you are watching a moment between two neighbors, rather than characters on a screen. A perfect example of this is when we are introduced to Brian, played by former Memphis actor David Kallaway.

Before Alers character and Anthony fight, the tensions begin to build between Kallaway’s character and Alers when she discovers he has a gun in the home with her child. Alers and Kallaway give a fairly good performance even if we never really get to know Kallaway very well.

The film begins to lead into a typical “character tries to recover from past” film until the father-son fishing trip. A twist in the typical father-son “birds and bees” talk was hysterical. Imagine when your parents sat you down and talked to you, but replace your bumbling embarrassed father explaining awkward terms, as clinically as possible, with a pony tailed ex-con using the words “fuck” and “thrust” about 20 times. Hysterical.

I was slightly disappointed with how the story shifts from there. In a good way. I hadn’t realized that I had connected with the characters until Anthony makes a major blunder of judgment. From then on I was tormented, wondering if he will recover from his choices, or go down in flames.

According to Reynolds, he was trying to create a story about people with all their flaws, “the good and bad points- and inherent selfishness- and how the things we do in life (though not malicious or evil) has negative effects on the people around us. Just got me to thinking about the shades of gray in people- life isn’t so clean cut.”

And that’s true. The film doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy. It leaves you in a contemplative mood. I thought about how easily your life can get screwed up just by one choice that you make. It was nice to have a film that made me think.

The hand held camera work fits nicely into the story even if the distortion on the edges of some shots irritated me at times. Not everything is smooth in Anthony’s world and the camera rolls right along with that fact. The locations felt very familiar and after a quick IMDB search I saw that they did quite a bit of filming in my old stomping grounds near San Diego, Temecula and Lake Elsinore area, which gives that gritty down home look to the film.

I asked the filmmaker what his influences were in choosing to film cinema-vérité. Reynolds explained, “while doing the re-write of the story Half Nelson came out- that movie impressed me and I feel it is one of the better indie films to come out in the past few years. I was also watching/ studying a lot of John Cassavetes movies. Basically I like hand held- many times better than movies shot more traditional- because it gives a soul and immediacy to things. Something that’s hard to exactly describe. I obviously chose to sacrifice technical perfection to allow the performance and people to tell the story.”

A main highlight of the film is the great performance from Jim Storm, whose theater background shows through in his characterization, as Duncan, the owner of the junk heap.

The film premiered on April 1st at the Method Film Festival and won the Audience Choice award for best feature length film.

It’s easy to see why. It plays up next in May at the Monaco Film Festival. Keep your eye out for some of the cast and crew in this film. You will definitely be seeing more of them.

UPDATE – Feb 2009 – Theatrical Release in L.A. – Will post more on this soon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Stephen Tenace (Francis Tenachi) permalink
    April 17, 2008 10:16 pm

    Dylan Reynolds has a successful career ahead of him. I’ve witnessed talent come and go over my 30 year career. Dylan has exactly what it takes as a writer and film director to preclude bad performances from talent and crew.

    It was more than an honor to have worked with Dylan and this Family of artists!

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