starring Philip Ettinger, Stacy Martin, Cosmo Jarvis, Lili Taylor
screenplay by Elizabeth Palmore, based on the novel by Carter Sickels
directed by Braden King
by Walter Chaw Everybody likes Cole (Philip Ettinger, the suicidal environmentalist from First Reformed), and for good reason. Cole is young, handsome, pleasingly brawny, appears to genuinely enjoy his job at the old-folks home, and takes care of his grandmother (Tess Harper) and demented-and-fading-fast grandfather (Frank Hoyt Taylor). As it happens, his grandfather looks a little bit like my late father-in-law, who was taken by dementia a couple of years ago at the beginning of one of the more bleak periods of my life. The way Cole reacts when he learns that plans are being made to move his grandfather into more structured care feels familiar and true. When Braden King's The Evening Hour is best, it's for how lived-in everything feels. Elizabeth Palmore's screenplay, an adaptation of a novel by Carter Sickels, sounds good and right in the mouths of these actors. I do wish it had eschewed its criminal subplot in favour of more, well, flavour, but even in its MacGuffin, find embedded modern bogeys like financial desperation, the opioid epidemic, and a broken healthcare state. Weighty stuff, and The Evening Hour handles it with agility and charm.
There's no profit in dwelling on that. What bears fruit are the conversations Cole has with his ex-girlfriend, Charlotte (Stacy Martin), who dated Terry once and may again, though no one except Terry thinks that's a good idea. Their relationship is complicated by history and by what Cole sees as a possible future versus what Charlotte wants. Also impactful, surprisingly so, is the return of Cole's estranged mom, Ruby (Lili Taylor), who abandoned Cole when he was little. She wants to tell Cole about how big the world is beyond their little Appalachian community, and as she starts in on it, Cole stands up and returns with a stack of disintegrating postcards from her that he's kept for decades, waiting for just this moment. He knows all about it, and he's choosing this way of life. I even like the interactions he has with his charges: the old couple he takes care of, the badly-diseased old guy who thinks his pudding is poisoned and is beginning to get violent. Cole wants everything to be okay all the time. He's a peacemaker, a pleaser, and in the end, he learns that nothing he does will stop the world from not giving the first shit about him.
My favourite moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is at the end of a series of traps, when Indy needs to make a "leap of faith" into what looks to him (and us) like a bottomless drop. He closes his eyes, puts his hands to his heart, and steps into the abyss. After a terrible night where no one can keep their promises, including him, Cole steps into the proverbial abyss. He decides he's going to take what he has left and go into the greater world outside his hermetic little bubble. He stops on his way out of town and looks back at the expansive beauty of what he's leaving behind, and King is smart enough to show us what he sees for longer than we think he will. It's a Hemingway moment at the end of a story he might have liked, had it been more stripped of EVENTS in favour of the quiet devastation of its events. As moments go, though, it's perfectly evocative. There are more scenes like that than not in The Evening Hour. And a lot like Jen McGowan's similarly-themed, similarly uneven Rust Creek, whatever their parts, the sum of them resonates with existential doom and a certain unmistakable tang of truth. Programme: U.S. Dramatic Competition