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    Meadowland (2015): Movie Review

    "A raw and unforgiving story of loss and grief.” 

    Loss and grief always come together and how we react to them varies greatly. While some succumb to a state of denial, others channel their anger and misery to other things. Such blurring realities are the subjects of the directorial debut of cinematographer Reed Morano called Meadowland, a story of how a couple respond with the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of their only child.

    In the prologue, happy parents Phil (Luke Wilson) and Sarah (Olivia Wilde) are on a road trip with their 8-year-old son Jesse. Needing some rations, the family stops by a gas station. Jesse takes a leak at the bathroom which has a backdoor that opens to a garage and then to the outside. To the parent’s shock, their son never comes out.

    One year later, Jessie remains missing and detectives occasionally calls the couple for some possible leads to their son’s whereabouts. While Sara teaches in the New York City public school system, Phil is all over the city playing cop. Phil is more receptive of the information given by the detectives. He starts attending support-group sessions and befriends another man (John Leguizamo) who he goes out with to talk about their losses over bottles of beer. On the other hand, Sarah is convinced that Jesse is just somewhere, alive and very fine. She begins slipping away unnoticed at nights. Donning a yellow hoodie, she frequents the streets around Times Square and roves through the crowd. At school, she identifies herself with some aloof and lonely students, like a smart black girl who loves listening to hardcore rock music and cutting herself, and a boy who is suffering from Asperger’s. As the couple imperceptibly drifts apart, the truth about their son’s disappearance is slowly dawning upon them. 

    Meadowland is a lethargic but visually arousing family drama. It is a slow, careful and painful study of parents losing a child. Response from both parents are different, each of them dealing with grief and depression in their own terms. The film succeeds in portraying several basic understandings about the subject matter. First, loss is not something so easy to get over with, especially when it concerns a loved one. It is a nightmare one must endure, something that one bears again and again with each passing minute that moving on from it is even harder. Everyone also deals with the same loss differently, even among couples and family members, and thus, loss does not necessarily bring people together. Instead, it unfortunately drives them apart as one seeks his or her own space to sort things out.

    The movie strongly captures the pathos and melodrama of the estranged family. Wailing and tears are very minimal as it is more subtle in dealing with its emotional topic. Filmed with a dreamy yet gloomy atmosphere, the movie is mostly quiet and focused, and at times distraught and phantasmal. After the incidence, the gestures between the couple are almost always empty and distant, like when Sarah leans her head on her husband's shoulder or when Phil reaches out to hug his wife. Shots are also frequently focused on the actors’ face, lucidly showing the glint in their eyes, the arching of their brows and every little movement suggestive of their inner turmoil.

    Acting is grounded and superb, particularly for Wilde and Wilson who we see more often in lighter fares. Wilson is charismatic as always, even with his sad-sack self-absorption. Wilde has a hypnotizing performance as she delivers the volatility and vulnerability of a grieving mother. There is also a constant flood of cameos here by actors whose presence further tests the stability of the couple’s relationship. 

    Meadowland is a slow-burning yet effective study of loss and grief.  While the narrative is genuine and unforgiving, acting is raw and subtly intense. It is harrowing and emotional effects linger for a long while. 

    Production company: Bron Studios 
    Director/director of photography: Reed Morano 
    Screenwriter: Chris Rossi 
    Producers: Olivia Wilde, Margot Hand, Matt Tauber, Aaron L. Gilbert 
    Executive producers: Jennifer Levine, Jason Cloth, Alex Garcia, Santiago Garcia Galvan, Marla Rand, Scott Paterson, Lauren Selig 
    Production designer: Kelly McGehee 
    Costume designer: Mirren Gordon-Crozier 
    Editor: Madeleine Gavin 
    Music: Adam Taylor


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