"Putty Hill" is the second feature from celebrated young filmmaker Matt Porterfield who delivers a beautifully realised and nuanced portrait of a close-knit community surviving on the outskirts of Baltimore. At a neighbourhood bar, on the eve of his funeral, friends and family gather to reflect on the life of a young man, Cory, who has tragically died following a heroin overdose in an abandoned house. Knowing little about his final days, they attempt to reconstruct his life and in doing so end up revealing their own. Porterfield has produced an evocative picture of working-class America, dislocated from the progress and mobility that surrounds them. Their shared memories paint a portrait of a community hanging in the balance, skewed by poverty, city living, and a generational divide, yet united in their pursuit of alternative American dream. Exquisitely shot and employing a rich variety of cinematic techniques, "Putty Hill" is one of the most exciting American indie films in years.
A small yet fractured community finds itself struck by tragedy when a young man unexpectedly dies of a heroin overdose; the boy’s family and friends reunite to remember him at his funeral.
A slow documentary-esque movie Putty Hill is the story of Cory’s family as they grieve over the loss of a son. His sister returns to their home town after 18 months of being away and his brother talks about how Cory’s death has allowed him to get closer to his young sister.
Written and directed by Matthew Porterfield the film takes a quiet, gentle and unobtrusive look into those Cory has left behind; it takes an almost uncomfortably close look into the way lives have become pointless and directionless and how this has lead to an entire generation feeling disassociated from death; making death as meaningless as the life lead before it. It is a strangely tragic movie where very little really happens and there seems to be no underlying message, rather it is a snap shot into a terribly fragile and upsetting period in the life of a small community.
Yet somehow Putty Hill doesn’t make you cry, although you feel you should, instead it leaves you with a lingering sense of sadness and even guilt; it has a painfully resonant truth about it as it shows the way we have become disconnected from one another so much so that a young man can slip into the depths of addiction seemingly unnoticed by his loved ones. This is not to say that Cory’s family did not love him or care for him, just simply that the everyday lives of these people have become so wrapped up in functionality that there is little time left for compassion and empathy, no matter how much you might wish there were.
It is almost unconceivable that these are in fact fictional characters, their behaviour is captured so well, whilst their speech and emotions are those of the slightly wary caught on camera in their most fragile moments.
Putty Hill will stay with you, its visuals are as distant and dull as the lives of the characters on the screen, yet in a strange way it fizzles with a sort of tragic beauty in the sadness of the moment that has brought this community together.
You rated this film: 5
Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
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