Film Review: Buck Run

buck run poster

Nick Frangione (Roxie) directs Buck Run, an indie drama loosely based on his lonely teen years in rural Pennsylvania. We meet Shaw Templeton (Nolan Lyons) during a pivotal period in his life. His mother has just died in her bed and he doesn’t know what to do. He’s estranged from his father, bullied at school, and ignored by his teachers. When he takes his frustration out on a stranger, he is arrested and eventually, they locate William Templeton (James Le Gros). Shaw can either go home with dear old dad or be turned over to the state. William convinces a skeptical cop that he’s clean and sober and has a place for Shaw at his ramshackle cabin. What follows is a slow-paced unraveling of a boy dealing with unimaginable loss, and a father forced to face a reality that he’s been putting off since his marriage ended. Buck Run isn’t a ton of fun, but it is a nice character showcase for the leads and a calling card for a talented cinematographer.

The title refers to the heavy hunting culture present in Shaw’s hometown. It’s so ingrained that kids are allowed to take a week off of school to hunt every winter. The film never seeks to explain the significance of the pastime, but does a fair job of incorporating it into the lives of the characters. When William’s not at the bar, or trying to make money at the swap meet, he’s in the woods with his longtime pal, John (Kevin J. O’Connor). William and John are close enough that John lent him $5000 to help “buy his wife out” of their marriage, but not so close that William actually used the money for that purpose. In fact, William never did get a divorce – a fact John learns after his wife’s death. John seems more annoyed than sympathetic, but he must not be too mad about it because he continues to socialize with William, only bringing up the money every other time.

When Shaw’s not napping under his hoodie at school, or hiding from bullies, he’s at the funeral home, trying to get some answers about what’s happening with his mom’s body. They’re not particularly sympathetic to him and even call the cops on him at one point. Basically, everywhere Shaw goes, he gets beaten, yelled at, or arrested, despite the fact that it’s a small town and everyone knows that his mom just died. Shaw’s lack of emotion exploding into fits of rage sometimes make it seem as though this is headed into David Fincher territory, but it never does.

Cinematographer Anna Franquesa Solano (The Farewell) holds your attention with her interesting composition. There’s not a lot going on in this town, so she has to find beauty where she can, and she succeeds more than once, whilst conveying the brown and beige world that Shaw reluctantly traverses.

First-time screenwriter David Hauslein leaves a lot to the imagination, particularly in regard to the family matriarch. We can work out that Shaw’s mother died of cancer after ailing at home for a long time. Flashback scenes show Shaw helping her to the bathroom and bringing her sips of water. But we don’t know what their relationship was like before she got sick. We don’t know why he loved her beyond the fact that she was his mother. We don’t know why William could never bring himself to finalize his divorce or why he visits her house without Shaw and sobs on the carpet. Her absence is palpable, but no so much her presence. Buck Run would have worked better as a short. But as it stands, the cinematography and performances carry the film and it’s worth a look.


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