Strange But True

Strange is a misleading word. Most of us think of it in a negative way, but I prefer to just think of it as meaning left of center or different in some way. Not lesser, just different.

In the arts world it can mean differen things as well. Not necessarily negative either. A television series like Stranger Things hasn’t suffered by self identifying as not the norm. Painter Salvador Dali was an odd man though still repected as a painter. Classic rock band The Doors had a song called “People are Strange” and no one thought twice about it. Finally, Canadian hoser film Strange Brew was…well…laughable.

Now here comes director Rowan Athale (The Rise) and his film Strange But True, which is based on the novel of the same name by John Searles (has also written Boy Still Missing and Help for the Haunted). It firmly positions itself within the world of the strange. Though set in average town USA and featuring on the surface seeming normal people.

Five years has passed since that tragic night. For some it seems like no time at all. On the night of high school prom a car accident happened which changed the lives of several people. In the car crash Ronnie (Connor Jessup – from television’s Locke & Key) died leaving his mother Charlene (Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone, Win Win), father Richard (Greg Kinnear – Little Miss Sunshine, You’ve Got Mail), younger brother Philip (Nick Robinson – Jurassic World, Love, Simon), and his girlfriend Melissa (Margaret Qualley – Seberg, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) shattered and trying to pick up the pieces.

Five years has past and Philip is laid up with a leg injury. While on the couch the door bell rings and there stands a very pregnant Melissa. She has not just come for a visit; she is a woman with a purpose. She lets the family know that the baby is Ronnie’s. Yep, you heard me right. Five years since his death and she claims the baby in her belly is his as she has never been with anyone else.

Rightly so, Ronnie’s family thinks she is crazy. They don’t believe her. Especially Charlene, who is now divorced from Richard and quite angry at him. But there is something which makes them look into it. The further they go along the more they believe it to be possibly true.

Melissa, who lives with her adoptive parents – Gail (Blythe Danner – Meet the Parents, The X Files) and Bill (Brian Cox – from television’s Succession), starts once again to get closer to Ronnie’s family.

When the truth is unveiled everyone is put in danger. Philip finds himself running for his life.

Definitely a slow burner with the tension being ramped up as the film goes on. The build is good with Charlene wavering between anger and desperation for it to be true. Philip once again feeling the shadow of his brother. Time and effort is put into this construction and then….sigh film endings.

Why do writers and directors believe they have to shove all they can into the last 15-30 minutes of a film? Time and time again all we end up with are messes or laughable films. They don’t learn. The lure is too big. Wanting the big payoff which will have fans flocking to the film and bring about plenty of chatter. It is a tricky thing to get right and if you don’t it pretty much erases all the good work you might have done up to that point.

The film had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2019 and is now enjoying a VOD release.

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