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Review: Among Ravens – “Touching and tragic in equal measure”

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Among Ravens is written and directed by Russell Friedenberg (Wind Walkers), and co-directed by Wind Walkers’s editor Randy Redroad. The film stars Amy Smart (Crank), “Josh” from The Blair Witch Project (Joshua Leonard), and also features the cold and ashamed, bound and broken on the floor Natalie Imbruglia.

Wendy (Smart) is hosting her family’s annual Fourth of July weekend party at a cabin by a lake. Her family, extended family, and brother’s damaged friend Chad (Will McCormack) all attend for dinner, drinks and good times; not expecting to have their darkest secrets aired, and for their comfy lives to be ripped apart by jealousies, rejections, bees and ‘shrooms.

Disappointingly, Natalie Imbruglia has only a small, forgettable role, but aside from this the performances across the board are excellent. Smart’s Wendy is desperate for everyone to have a good time and for everything to go well, but is caught between a failing marriage to her new husband (Leonard), and a still smouldering attraction to her ex-husband who is played by the film’s writer-director Russell Friedenberg.

Special props go to Will McCormack, whose Chad is the spark to start setting alight to the family’s status quo. Chad’s issue is never completely identified, but his symptoms imply at least a touch of Asperger’s. After a misunderstanding with Joey (Johnny Sequoyah) – the ten year old girl who also provides the film’s voice over – Chad is briefly exiled. He later returns with heartfelt gifts, but letting him back in opens the gathering up to his blunt insights and actions that don’t spare anybody’s feelings.

The film’s music by Fall On Your Sword is wonderful, providing a perfect balance between accompanying and accentuating the onscreen developments, and being noticeably good, but not sticking out so much to be a distraction. Redroad and Friedenberg’s film looks lovely too, summery and shadowy with an appealing colour palette that keeps the eyes happy while the nourishing drama constantly unfolds.

A hardcore performance-driven independent drama, Among Ravens is melodramatic without being soap-y and touching and tragic in equal measure.

3.5-out-of-5

Among Ravens is available in the UK on DVD and download on the 25th of January.

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