Sympathy (2007)

Sympathy poster!Starring Marina Shtelen, Aaron Boucher, Steven Pritchard

Directed by Andrew Moorman

I can’t figure if it’s easier making an indie movie with smaller or bigger cast; on the one hand, with a big cast, you’ve got a lot of different talents you can parade to distract from other shortcomings of your film. With a small cast, you’ve only got a finite number of egos to deal with … but what happens if one of them is sick? Or can’t make it one day? You’d have to re-shoot your whole damn film up to that point…

Though I’m sure such things went through director Moorman’s head before he rolled out Sympathy, and in the long year it took to make it, but he managed to come out on the other end with a seamless indie effort … and I bet he’d tell you that shooting a movie with only three actors and one, count ‘em one, location was a lot better than you’d think. And a lot worse.

Sympathy starts off with bank robber, Trip (Pritchard) depositing his hostage, Sara (Shtelen) in a motel room with the impression given that they’ve just barely escaped the long arm of the law. Apparently Trip panicked when making his getaway from the cops hot on his heel and grabbed a beautiful young girl to make sure they didn’t shoot him. Cause you know how cops hate shooting pretty girls.

Things are tense for obvious reasons, though Sara acts tough she’s more freaked out than she would like Trip to believe, but they get even worse when Trip goes out for a while and comes back to find that escaped convict Dennis (Boucher) has now holed up in the very same motel room, apparently attracted to the scent of blood (at this point Sara has a shoulder wound).

Sounds like it’s too much of a coincidence? Honestly that’s the first thought that will cross your mind, but it won’t stick for long because there are just too many fucked up things going on in Sympathy to get distracted by minutia. Layers upon layers are pulled back through the film’s (over long) hour and forty minute running time, until you as the viewer can never be sure who’s lying about what and when and why and…

Well, let’s just say it’s a bit of a headfuck.

But is it a horror movie? It would be well defined as psychological horror, for sure, since almost all of what goes wrong for the characters in Sympathy comes from their minds first and foremost. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of physical violence goes down as well, some of it just downright painful to watch, but it’s all for a good reason and it does further the plot along; this isn’t violence for violence’s sake.

One could make the argument that there are logic holes throughout, but if you pay attention at the end pretty much everything you could wonder about is explained in one way or another. Yes, you’ll see some of the many twists coming a mile or so away, but there are others that aim to blindside, and do a damn fine job of it.

For a film shot in one room with three people, it’s very hard to hold a lot against Sympathy, as much as I like to give the most balanced review possible. It’s too long and there are parts that go one way past their useable expiration moment, but all in all Sympathy is a damn solid effort.

There is something inherently limiting when you’re shooting with such a small cast and single location, so there is a boredom factor you have to take into account. Moorman does his best to give us as many optional angles as he can but really, there’s only so much you can do in one tiny motel room. If anything holds Sympathy back from being more appealing to a bigger audience, that would be it. Which I’m sure some might see as ironic since that was the director’s intention from the get go.

I’m not sure when Sympathy will be available for mass consumption, but make sure you give this one a chance when it is. It might overstay it’s welcome a bit, but you’ll still appreciate the visit in the long run.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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