Sunday 26 May 2024

Movie Review: Back Roads (2018)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Alex Pettyfer  
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Jennifer Morrison, Nicola Peltz, Juliette Lewis, Robert Patrick  
Running Time: 101 minutes  

Synopsis: Harley (Alex Pettyfer) is a young man struggling to care for his three younger sisters after their mother Bonnie (Juliette Lewis) was imprisoned for killing her abusive husband. Eldest sister Amber (Nicola Peltz) is now a rebellious teenager and eager to make life miserable for her brother. 12 year-old middle sister Misty is quiet and withdrawn, while the youngest sibling Jody is only six years old. Harley is attracted to older married neighbour Callie (Jennifer Morrison), but as they start an affair, he is increasingly haunted by childhood trauma and overwhelmed by his responsibilities.

What Works Well: Co-writers Adrian Lyne and Tawni O'Dell (adapting her book) create a disturbingly dark portrait of a family wrecked by abuse and violence. In his directorial debut, Alex Pettyfer commands the challenging material and demonstrates maturity to register impact with understatement, his own performance a study in exhausted complexity. He is supported by a trio of bold women: Jennifer Morrison embraces lust that turns into a gateway for danger; Nicola Peltz is a study in misdirected antagonism; and Juliette Lewis shares a devastating scene with Pettyfer across the prison glass. 

What Does Not Work As Well: There is an awful lot going on in this family, and none of it is good. The featureless suburban setting and grim brown tones underline a depressed mood as the plot works hard to snuff out any ambers of hope.

Conclusion: Haunting, blunt, and essential.

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