Mourning Has Broken
Directors: Brett Butler, Jason Butler.
Screenplay: Brett Butler, Jason Butler.
Starring: Robert Nolan, Shaun Devlin, Karen Sazuki, Jen De Lucia, Robyn Kay Pilarski, Damien Gulde, Katy Stephen, Sara Miller, Mike Donis, Graham Kent, Brett Butler, Jason Butler, Michael Salesio, Kevin Scott, Graeme Boyce, Joann Nordstrom, Vittorio Cortese, Jane Pokou.
“Respect the big screen and fuck, fuck… Fuck the little screen. Respect silence… and listen to surround sound. Listen to others and, truly, go and fuck yourselves”
With the intention of focusing more on independent cinema, I found myself chatting with co-writer/director Brett Butler and he kindly invited me to view his film Mourning Has Broken. He informed me that the film was shot for only $1000 and the project was actually a part of a Toronto 1KWave Feature film challenge to write, shoot, edit, and deliver a feature film in 3 months. The idea was spearheaded and funded by Canadian Indie film Queen Ingrid Veninger and they impressively shot the entire film in 5 1/2 days with almost 30 locations.
It’s about a man who awakens to the unexpected death of his beloved wife and tries, against all odds, to get through the rest of the day and complete a to-do list.
What strikes you from the offset is the playful use of Cat Stevens’ classic song “Morning Has Broken” and how this film plays on that title. It’s interesting that our man is woken by his household cat and that the Butler brothers certainly have a vision to their tale with such clever little references.
Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson’s camerawork (remarkably shot with what light was available) is crisp and well utilised and we are treated to the wonderful use of soft focus to symbolise “from death do us part”; a wedding ring on the man’s finger contrasted with his recently deceased wife lying next to him.
We are never formally introduced to our suffering protagonist – he’s credited only as “Husband” – but there’s no need for introduction. This everyman’s spiralling journey into despair, in the face of everyday dealings and annoyances, is one that many of us can identify with.
There are numerous standout scenes with one in particular showing our man, waiting in his car at a red light, and caught between a pharmacy and a funeral parlour; his indicator ticking furiously to capture the contrast between the two. It’s obvious that he’s trying to hold it together and the pressures of everyday life certainly don’t make it easy. He wanders through parks only to be exposed to cyclists or psychopaths and the increasing disconnection and lack human interaction. At one point in our journey we witness a father (played by co-writer/director Jason Butler) speak down to his young son during a competitive tennis match… “Right now you’re on the losing side of winning and I want you on the winning side of winning” – before further bombarding the young boy with insults.
A simmering boiling point is emerging on this day and our man’s tolerance goes from bad to increasingly worse; from obnoxious drivers to charlatan mechanics to inept customer services, salesmen and the always infuriating manufactures packaging. Ultimately, our man’s struggle reflects an increasing intolerance for our dull consumerist society. There nothing this man experiences that we haven’t experienced for ourselves at one point or other. Think, if you will, the desperation of Michael Douglas in Joel Schumacher’s “Falling Down”.
It’s a mad world we live in and the Butler’s manage to condense that madness. Of course, they are aided immeasurably by their leading man in Robert Nolan. It’s his ability to capture and display a whole myriad of emotions and does them so well that it elevates the material to the requisite madness with a standout scene in a packed cinema theatre where Nolan is allowed to rant with such vehement passion.
A well written and performed little independent satire that’s both intimate and hysterical. On this evidence, and the budgetary and time constraints outlined earlier, the brothers Butler deserve applause for their remarkable achievements here.
For anyone who’s interested, it comes out on iTunes and VOD on February 3rd and I recommend you give it look.