Indie Film Review “Woodfalls”



First, the Recap:

Fitting in. It’s the challenge anyone faces when arriving at a destination, especially as their new place of residence. The desire holds to make new friends, establish oneself in the community, all in the hopes of becoming a part of it all. Then again, some places don’t want to face what they cannot comprehend. A small, out of the way rural community has become the latest stop for “traveler” Billy Marr (Matthew Ferdenzi). The locals, however, don’t share the enthusiasm of having unwanted “gypsies” in their midst, the hatred against them lead by drug pusher Damon (Gareth Bennett-Ryan), whose got his own issues to deal with involving his supplier Russell (Andrew McDonald) and hesitant friends Sammy (Rob Timbrell) and Bruce (David Luke).

But, choosing not to back down, Billy ultimately gains a friend in Bradley (Tyron Maynard) who helps him get immersed into the local culture and gain some sense of inclusion. Meanwhile, Billy’s sister Rebecca (Michelle Crane) briefly encounters Damon, but also runs afoul of another local dealer named Wozzle (Joseph Law), who more than makes a nasty impression on her life. Also in the mix is their mother Marie (Maggie Daniels), who tries her best to be the voice of reason and authority for the family, but still has to endure the trials they go through and the choices her children are making in the ongoing attempts to blend in. However, it soon becomes painfully and violently apparent, fitting in may just not be possible.

Next, my Mind:

Writer/director David Campion assuredly pulls no punches with this 75-minute indie feature film that paints a harsh, raw, unfaltering portrait of cultural stigmas, unfounded hatred against what’s not understood, the lack of acceptance, the boldness to stand firm against it all, and the slight glimmers of hope to see things change that are discovered. This is truly blunt force material here, presented as such, with pervasive crude language and sexual content, with one scene of the latter particulary brutal in its thematic concept, all of which became a huge distraction for this reviewer’s overall tolerance of said content while trying to take in and appreciate the rest of the greater story. This in itself isn’t to say these elements were necessarily in there gratuitously given the narrative’s intentions, but again, it still seemed like overkill at times. The cinematography was very well executed to give the film a gritty, realistic mood and tone, certainly apropos. But again, it’s a dark story and has a finale that adds a final punch to the gut you may or may not expect, and pretty much leaves you in a state of melancholy.

The ensemble cast is very sizable, but despite this reviewer’s overall reservations about the content, there’s no getting past the actor’s performances. Ferdenzi infuses a massive level of weightiness to Billy, a young man who just wants to live his life with his family, traveling wherever they need to be, and at least just mix in with the community. The fact he cannot, thanks to Damon and others, ultimately cascades into chaos and embittered resolutions, all out of “necessity” he’s forced into. Crane as Billy’s sister Rebecca is a true study in the loss of innocence, as her amiable manner even manages to soften up Damon a bit, but also leaves her a bigger target for others with less than quality intent. Watching the character endure this reality check is heartbreaking, and Crane enacts it well. Bennett-Ryan’s Damon also illustrates an existence in chaos, as his local drug-based life is clouded further by people he feels are doing nothing but letting him down, building a growing, unsettled rage within him. Yet, he finds reason to make an effort to at least clean up a bit after his meeting Rebecca, but his involvement in it all still ends up leading down a destructive path, even if by default.

The supporting turns from McDonald as a local drug supplier and a “father” figure to Damon, Maynard as Bradley, the only initial person to offer friendship to Billy instead of fists, Daniels as Marie, the stalwart but longsuffering mother to Billy and Rebecca, and Law as drug dealer Wozzle, whose erratically carefree ways more than land him in trouble all accompany the greater narrative with well-acted purpose.  Additional turns come from Timbrell, Luke, Rachel Marwood, Virginia Byron, Marlene Abuah, and Anthony Abuah among others as well, again all encompassing specific characters who influence the primary ones, for good or ill. In total, while this reviewer cannot say it was a totally preferred effort personally, “Woodfalls” does still represent the indie film community well in its overall drive to show how the genre isn’t afraid to tackle themes with bite and tenacity via the character and story-based medium it resides in.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


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