Blake Robbins first outing out the door as a multi-sectional artist screened at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival in the form of the Sublime and Beautiful – a familiar drama whose aim is more of setup than actual execution when the going gets tough.
Robbins, as a writer/director/star portrays David Conrad, a college professor who keeps alive a fairly comfortable lifestyle in Lawrence, Kansas for his wife (a passionate & intense Laura Kirk) Kelly and three children. As the years have worn on and David has become slightly chubby, overworked and underpaid – an affair has formed between our central character and Katie (Anastasia Baranova), a sweet, young college student.
One particular evening in December during a commute home from a local holiday party, Kelly is struck by a drunk driver (Armin Shimerman), sending the mother to the hospital in intensive care and the three children to the grave. Once the dust has settled and with the local driver sent home, the Conrad’s are left with picking up the pieces of tragedy, sorrow and a whole lot of anger issues to deal with.
Robbins has come to the screen with an idea of a traditional revenge/familiar drama story with some slight twists here and there. For the most part, things come together. There is a fine job of navigating a balance on both Kelly in her guilt and hopelessness, while David’s silent outrage is in isolating himself from those he is around the most – wife, mother/father, friends. The issues here start to present themselves more in action than verse when viewers are faced more in repetition of action involving the easy go-to standard of substance abuse when these type of topics are covered. Yes, many people result to abusing but there is an all too-often heavy hand at work on display here, but not a lot of resolution to give the characters some kind of grace when its all said and done.
With the previous said however, Sublime isn’t necessarily without its promise and a few merits. There are some quieter and very simple scene work of true emotion on display from Robbins, but the scene stealing certain is owed here to Laura Kirk for her complete emotional life being slung out on display in some pivotal scenes.
As an overall effort, Robbins script is (again) generally on-the-mark for this type of effort (both positively and blandly-so). The combination of effective pacing, Lyn Moncrief’s destaturated photography & Lili Hadyn’s underscoring design all add a certain chill to the current of sorrow at play & emerge the crawling effects of the accident’s aftermath to help curdle the stomach at times. There is one large omission/addition (depending on your view) of note that sets Sublime apart from similar pieces – the change is welcomed and gives a bit of breath holding to the story, but perhaps a bit too late to give heft to the weight it deserves.
In the end, the Sublime and Beautiful was a discussed and hyped film going into Slamdance this year and if Robbin’s direction is any indication as to the attention this film will pick up – the film should get some nice VOD play later on the down the road, but for the meantime things may may be much like the Conrad’s house after the accident – holding very quiet.
The Sublime and Beautiful screens Monday, Jan 20th at 4:45 PM