May 14, 2019 A Violent Separation (Movie Review)
Family is said to be one of the important things in life. Some family is chosen, and other family is inescapable. This in mind, set for release in theaters and on-demand May 17th, comes A Violent Separation, a suspenseful tale of two families trapped in distrust and brought together by the unthinkable.
A Crime Thriller directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz (A Scenic Route 2013), it opens with the peaceful chirp and buzz of the Montanan outdoors playing an idle background to the start of an ordinary day. Here there is a man named Norman Young (Brenton Thwaites: The Giver 2014, Titans series), a deputy in the sleepy Montana town. Seen donning his uniform before he begins his morning, the appearance of a man in an automobile, drifting down the dirt road seems to disrupt the serenity of the small homestead. The man, Ray (Ben Robson: Animal Kingdom series, Vikings series), who also happens to be Norman’s older brother, imminently comes off as rowdy and troublesome. Within a few words of their exchange, Norman has Ray bound in handcuffs on the ground.
Moving forward, the gentle melody of a southern ballad fills the air of a musty bar as couples sway to the beat with Norman and Ray entering. Ray, celebrating his birthday, finds himself dancing with his girlfriend Abbey (Claire Holt: The Vampire Diaries series, Pretty Little Liars series), and for a moment, things seem loving again between the two. Then, a fight erupts between Ray and a trio of bar patrons, wreaking havoc on the small moment between Norman and Abbey’s younger sister, Frances (Alycia Debnam-Carey: Fear the Walking Dead series, The 100 series). Norman is struck suddenly in the midst of de-escalating the brawl, and the bar erupts into violence once again. This is all while Abbey sits as an audience to the skirmish despite the best efforts of Frances to encourage her to leave. A feverous kiss between the bartender, that is not Abbey, and Ray is all it takes to send Abbey out the door with Frances in hot pursuit.
The relationship between the brothers is a delicate one, often disrupted by Ray’s inability to think about others, or the consequences of his actions. In his drunken stupor he returns to the home of Abbey’s family and crashes on their couch before she awakens him late in the night. The following morning, an old Pontiac GTO drives down a dirt road in the early hours with the obstreperous Ray asleep in the passenger side. He is awakened by the greeting of a loaded pistol to his head, though it turns out to be a fiendish joke by Abbey in the driver’s seat. His blonde woman is focused on her excursion to find the perfect location to shoot in respite of his disagreement. The squabble is tense as the gun is waved around and tempers flared before it goes off and shoots Abbey in the head, killing her.
Panic pervades the air as Ray, now a killer, falls into hysteria. He moves her body from the car before calling his brother, Norman, declaring that he has made a big mistake, though in some rather choice terms. Following the discovery of the dead woman’s abandoned car, Norman is called in to the scene. Sheriff Ed (Ted Levine: Silence of the Lambs 1991, Monk series) theorizes that her death is a homicide only further solidifying Norman’s doubt that it was not an accident. Now having to fulfill his obligation to uphold the law whilst knowing the truth of what non-rescindable mistake his brother has made, has it dealt a massive hard blow to the Campbell family?
While the pacing of the relationship between Frances and Norman can at times feel rushed and a bit lackluster in terms of believable chemistry, their authentic characters more than make up for it. Adding to the atmosphere, a tense instrumental slides in and out to accompany the fretfully emotional state the brothers reside in as the inquiries grow in frequency and the truth creeps up to their front door.
Also starring Gerald McRaney (This Is Us series, Undercovers series) in the role of Tom Campbell, the patriarch of the Campbell family, and Peter Michael Goetz (Glory 1989, Father of the Bride Part II 1995) as Riley Jenkins, the film is above all blessed with a stellar cast. This aside, A Violent Separation has the soul of an old Spaghetti Western, fed by redemption and guilt as characters slowly unravel. It mirrors itself with a flawless execution of action and consequences that always appears to come full circle. That is why Cryptic Rock give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.