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‘Back Roads’ (review)

Produced by Michael Ohoven,
Craig Robinson, Alex Pettyfer,
Ashley Mansour, Jake Seal, Dan Spilo

Screenplay by Tawni O’Dell, Adrian Lyne
Based on Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell
Directed by Alex Pettyfer
Starring Alex Pettyfer, Jennifer Morrison,
Nicola Peltz, Chiara Aurelia, Hala Finley,
June Carry, Robert Patrick, Juliette Lewis

Actor Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, The Butler) makes his directorial debut with Back Roads, an adaptation of the novel by Tawni O’Dell. Pettyfer also takes the lead as Harley Altmyer, a young man stuck in a backwoods town in rural Pennsylvania.

Circumstances – namely his mother’s serving a jail sentence for murdering his father – force Harley to be the breadwinner of the family and raise his three younger sisters.

Due to his schedule, Harley hasn’t been dating, but he shares a mutual attraction with a married older woman (Morrison of TV’s Once Upon a Time). He tries to find time to visit his incarcerated mother (an intense Lewis) and keep the family stable, but as the film progresses, some dark familial secrets are revealed.

Described in the press notes as a film noir, Back Roads is really more of a ripe, perverse, Gothic melodrama, and a pretty good one at that.

Pettyfer and his co-stars all acquit themselves well and the location work is evocative.

The film effectively builds to its revelations (some of which are more surprising than others) without becoming tedious or rushing things.

While the tone of the film is dark and somber, there is some winning, if low-key, humor sprinkled throughout, such as Morrison’s character’s reaction upon hearing that Harley is enamored of her derriere.

Along those lines, there are some truly sexy – and believable – moments throughout the film and it’s nice to see Pettyfer and company don’t shy away from them.

The film is also a nice examination of the sacrifices we make for our loved ones.

While I certainly admire the film and strongly recommend it, Back Roads does fall into the recent crop of lower budgeted films helmed by first-timers wherein acting is solid and it’s a fine film, but while the straightforward approach works, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the film would’ve been even stronger with more stylistic direction.

It’s a good movie with somewhat daring subject matter, so a more daring stylistic approach would have suited it.

Be that as it may. Back Roads, in its current state, is an involving, intriguing tale told well.



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