The Shade Shepherd @ Newport Beach Film Festival

When you see as many films a year as I (or any other film critic) do it gets to the point where you just crave “difference”. Something different. Films that say something new or just offer a fresh viewpoint on a subject. That particular desire was fulfilled with Chris Faulisi’s (A Proper Violence) film The Shade Shepherd, which is screening at this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival.

With a baby coming up it seems like a strange time for psychiatrist Jake Ables (Jordon Hodges – Sand Castles) to take time off. Yet he is. This despite the concerns of his very pregnant wife, Stacey (Caroline Newton – A Place in Hell). The reason for it is that his older brother Pike (Randy Spence – appeared in an episode of House of Cards), who is a junkie, has gotten himself into trouble and the police are looking for him. Jake tells Pike, who has no memory of any of it as he was high, that apparently he got into a bar fight the night before and someone is dead.

Jake and Pike take off into the woods with the idea of heading towards the Canadian border for safety. They are on the run. Unpredictably, what ensues is the brothers spending time together like they have not in a long time. Remembering why they love one another and reconnecting under the strangest of circumstances.

Done poorly and with less imagination this could have been merely a brothers on the run from the law type film. Instead it is less about the darkness inherent in the story and more about human relationships. The journey here is not one that focuses on getting Pike to safety rather about where the two men have been and are going in their lives.

For those out there who lived through the 80s this film will warm the cockles of your heart. You will feel like you were wisked back to that decade in a time machine. Even the opening credits with its synth heavy music and neon lights. Every detail has been thought of and it is obvious that Faulisi is a fan of the era.

Besides the strong performances from the two leads, director Faulisi has to be applauded for the success of the film. It is obvious that he is not working with a huge budget, but does not allow that to affect the outcome. It looks great and is told in such a way that you are completely engaged in the story.

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