In William H. Macy’s moving directorial debut RUDDERLESS, Billy Crudup plays Sam, a former high-profile advertising executive whose life is torn apart by the sudden death of his son. Living off the grid on a docked sailboat, he wastes away his days while drowning his pain in alcohol. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son's demo tapes and lyrics, his own child’s musical talent is a revelation for him, a grieving father who felt he’d been absent from his son’s life. Communing with his deceased son’s dashed dreams, Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin, a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo forms a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives.
Rudderless is the type of film that is not talked about much, but definitely should be. It is a beautiful story, with emotional acting, and music that takes it to a whole other level. Despite it being a directorial feature debut for William H. Macy, he has obvious talent, and uses his experience as an actor to draw the best performances out of everyone.
We follow Sam (played by Billy Crudup), who begins the film as a high-profile advertising executive. His life quickly falls apart when a college campus shooting includes the death of his son, and he becomes little more than a homeless drunk. Two years pass, and his wife brings him a couple of boxes of their late-son’s possessions. Inside them, he finds demo tapes and lyrics created by his son, a talent and passion he did not know his son harboured; and he finally decides to perform them as a way to deal with the loss. When a young musician (Anton Yelchin) hears and connects with the music, they form a semi-rock band, that will take their lives in directions they never imagined.
While difficult to do, Rudderless has been able to mix dramatic scenes with moments of humour, and musical performances, with all aspects being brilliant. Not one area is lacking, and it combines to make a truly remarkable finished product.
The musical element is only a part of the story. The characters are not going to suddenly burst into song like you would find in musical films like Grease and High School Musical, and most of the actors are not especially known for their singing abilities, but you will not even notice this. You will be too involved in the story and emotion that technicalities like that will not matter.
The acting is also what I should commend, because everyone gave their all. Leads Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin had a very good chemistry, and were believable as two lost boys at different stages of their lives.
As I said before, Rudderless is William H. Macy’s directorial feature debut, but he has definitely been paying attention and knows what he is doing. His position as an established and experienced actor would also have given him a unique perspective from which to communicate what he wanted to the other actors.
The story - with a major plot twist I will not spoil for you - was everything you could ask for. Please do not spoil this for yourself, and just watch the film.
With its premier at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival getting it numerous standing ovations, it is no surprise that the vast majority of reviews have been positive.
The way the film dealt with the issue of a school shooting was respectful, though some elements of the film make it unsuitable for younger audiences; but otherwise it is a film a lot of people can watch.
So check it out, and enjoy.
You rated this film: 4
Michelle Sommerville - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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