There are some incredible independent films that, due to their small marketing budget and lack of a stream engine behind them, miss out on the attention they deserve. This is a tragedy that doesn’t settle well with me, therefore I’d like to mention one each week that I think is worth the trouble of seeking out.
So, let’s kick this baby off with a Tribeca Film Festival favorite. Gabriel is a character-driven, gritty psychological drama, written and directed by first time filmmaker Lou Howe, a graduate of the American Film Institute. It stars Rory Culkin, in arguably the best performance of his career, as a mentally disturbed, verging-on-suicidal, young man. Having been released from a hospital, where he was receiving psychiatric treatment for a tragic “incident” that is only implied in the film, he’s given his last chance to redeem himself; to show his family that he can be a fully-functioning person who takes his medication and stays out of trouble.
But Gabe (only his mother and girlfriend can call him Gabriel) has other ideas for how to spend his time in the big wide world. He forms a plan to go and find Alice (played by Emily Meade), a girl with whom he shared a childhood romance, but hasn’t seen since, and ask for her hand in marriage. Even though he’s unhinged, and this will surely end in hopeless disaster, I closely followed Gabe on this quest, holding my breath with every anxiety-riddled moment he experienced, where I thought he might burst. And most importantly, I believed that his intentions were genuine. Therefore I was an active participant, supporting the plan and rooting for Gabe.
The storyline in Gabriel is consistent and straightforward, dancing between Gabe’s insane quest, and his family battle back home. His grief-stricken mother is played by Deirdre O’Connell, and she gives an empathetic, heartbreaking performance. David Call is also impressive as Gabe’s responsible older brother, who’s clearly been emotionally beaten down by Gabe. But the true standout here is Culkin, and not just because he’s in almost every scene. At times startling and remarkable in his personification of Gabe, Culkin proves, without a doubt, that he’s a versatile actor with longevity.
Photographed gorgeously by Wyatt Garfield, and directed with keen observation and raw sensitivity by Howe, Gabriel paints an honest picture of a young man’s daily struggle with bi-polar disorder. Gabe hasn’t yet learned how to harness his emotions, though a glimmer of hope is offered. In addition, the brief window that the film offers into the experiences of the surrounding family members is frightening, as they must continuously pick up the pieces of this broken puzzle they know so well, yet not at all. It’s a bold, thought-provoking first film, and I can’t wait to see what Howe comes up with next.
If you’re keen to join Gabe on his quest, please, check out the film on iTunes, Amazon Prime, or Vudu. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter (@trilbyberesford) with your thoughts, or make a comment in the section below! That’s why it’s there.
IMAGE: Wyatt Garfield/Oscilloscope Labs