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BWW Review: REPARATION Seethes With Suspense - An Intensely Gripping Redemption Tale

(The 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival, running from February 20th through February 28th, is featuring more than 160 films, including documentaries, features, shorts, animation and foreign films. The following is one of a series of reviews of selected films from the Festival.)

The force and power of REPARATION is the seamlessness and masterful editing with which writer (in collaboration with playwright Steve Timm), producer, and director Kyle Ham has weaved together multiple themes and story lines all in the context of a riveting psychological thriller and all bound by the shared desire of its characters to fix something in their lives.

From the film's startling and chilling opening question, "Why did my dad get shot in the face?" to its revelatory ending, REPARATION is a taut, gut-wrenching, and edge-of-the-seat experience.

Marc Menchaca and Jon Huertas give the flick its sizzle. They star as two Air Force buddies who lived by a two-rule code: enforce the law, and watch your buddy's back. Their relationship has been shattered for reasons that emerge like a coiled cobra out of a wicker basket. Except to note that obedience to one of the rules may be incompatible with fidelity to the other, I am obliged to abstain from spoilers! You just must bristle on the edge of your seat until you're stung by the story's revelations.

Marc Menchaca plays Bob Stevens, a tormented soul suffering from dissociative disorder and a 3-year wide hole in his memory. (Helpful note for the therapeutically uninitiated: Dissociative disorder is a "condition that involves disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity, or perception...thought to primarily be caused by psychological trauma.") Following his discharge from a psychiatric clinic, he returns home to Greencastle, Putnam County, Indiana. Along the way, he meets Lucy (Virginia Newcomb), a sassy and spirited nomad who joins him and settles in as his soul mate.

All's relatively well until one-time comrade Jerome Keller (Jon Huertas) appears. It has taken him eight years and a thousand miles to find his brother in blue, but his arrival doesn't have the makings of a happy reunion. There is a score to be settled, and Jerome's relentless probing for the truth is merciless and menacing.

Putnam County's bucolic and spacious agricultural setting contrasts markedly with the film's dark and claustrophobic mood. Against the backdrop of rolling hills and vegetation, Bob and Jerome are enveloped in a dark and daunting night of the souls.

Bob and Lucy's eight-year old daughter, Charlotte (Dale Dye Thomas), born in a campsite between Bakersfield and nowhere, is the voice of this film and a key to its resolution. She has the eye of a Picasso, knowing that one can never see reality whole; one must observe the object from different angles in order to truly know the entire thing. Perhaps, she's an old soul, for she's endowed with a wisdom that befits an older adult, understanding that "every time something happens that knocks us out of balance, we try doing something that will knock us back in." She's not a clairvoyant, but she is blessed (or cursed?) with a unique visionary power that may cause one to wonder if it is possible for memories to be genetically transmitted from child to parent.

The haunting specter of a boy named Ralph (Brody Behr), who appears as both conscience and guide to Steve's salvation, is as much a key to the story's resolution as is Charlotte.

REPARATION seethes with suspense. It's an intensely gripping redemption tale. And it compellingly reminds us all that nothing ever is as it seems, and that judgments about the intentions and motivations of others are incomplete until you can understand them in their entirety.

Following a string of awards at festivals in Austin, Santa Fe, Breckenridge, Houston, and Newport Beach, REPARATION is likely due for more celebration of Kyle Ham's astute direction and his cast's gripping and authentic performances. REPARATION is scheduled for screening next at the 22nd Annual Sedona International Film Festival on February 26th.

Photo credit to REPARATION

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