Edge of the World

Why do we watch movies, really? Is it to immerse ourselves in another world? To empathize with a set of circumstances so different to our own? To live vicariously through adventures and experiences that one can only distantly hope to achieve? Or at the core of it all, is the answer to that question so vigorously simple it’s effortless to overcomplicate it?

I propose a basic theory, one that has likely been said before, only to be proclaimed again: we watch films in order to feel alive. Whether it is to dive headfirst into a pool of sorrow, joy, lust, fear, love, rage, ecstasy, or pain, the very point is that we expect to be consumed by a story on-screen.

Frankly put, this exposed truth is probably why it is nearly in our second nature to unforgivingly criticize movies that fail to allow us our rightful escape from the mundanity of the day-to-day. As an indie film critic, however, I have a tendency to hesitate when it comes to harshly dissecting a production that I know a group of gifted people has invested a heck of a lot of time and soul into.

Edge of the World is one of those pieces that ties up a smattering of flaws with one colossal bow, eager to preach a message that woefully falls on deaf ears. At any rate, the packaging and sheen of the whole production are exquisite – a pleasant distraction from an idle plot.

“…an underdog sports team sees an unlikely burst of success inspired by faith and takes home the gold.”

A religious current runs throughout Edge of the World. The namesake of the movie is derived from a fictional place where the characters lay their troubles before God. Coach Davis (Trevor St. John) struggles with the death of his beloved wife, as he simultaneously tries to lift up a group of wayward teens living at a boys ranch from their positions on the outskirts of society into cross country champions accepted into a community.

This storyline has a deja-vu quality to it; an underdog sports team sees an unlikely burst of success inspired by faith and takes home the gold. Why is it that so many faith-based movies follow this cliché cookie cutter mold? Such an overplayed filmmaking formula needs to be laid to rest, and pronto. I am eagerly awaiting a film to screen that aims to deliver a glory of God message which works instead to reinvent this tired perception.

Fortunately, there are a few saviors that swoop in, who inadvertently redeem the overarching quality of the production. If Film Threat were to start giving out hypothetical awards for standalone triumphs within features, first place would go to Gilbert Salas and Randy Redroad. Cinematographer and director/editor responsible for Edge of the World, Salas, and Redroad are the dynamic duo of the year.

The two impressively play off of each other’s isolated techniques. The cinematography exhibited can best be described as both ethereal and visually captivating. Even seeing one of the protagonists set fire to various objects is transcendent; captured as an explosive shower of vibrant sparks exaggerated by time-lapsed movements, it forces an unbeatable urge to pause and rewind back each sequence for your gawking pleasure. Redroad repeats this slow-motion playback throughout the arc of the story, highlighting the electrifying hues and immersive sequences evoked by Salas.

“…the packaging and sheen of the whole production are exquisite…”

Second place would be awarded to the actors showcased. All commit to their respective roles, adding a level of necessary sincerity to the narrative. Juan Martinez, Jonathan Daviss, Will Meyers, and Trevor St. John are the stars who stand out above the rest in their performances. Martinez notably shines with his take on perturbed but endearingly spirited Willy, a young boy grappling with the loss of his grandmother who remains earnest in his attempt to build a new life at the boys’ ranch.

Talent compliments artistic angles often in Edge of the World. The use of flashbacks frames an early scene where the team ventures on horseback to the very spot the movie gleans its title from. Fragmented strands of sunlight and suspended moments are accentuated by a soothing instrumental score, as we get to know our troubled characters and actions that landed them at the ranch a bit better.

The sequence ends a little too quickly, leading up to an upsetting realization for those of us viewing: for the most part, conclusive character development is missing from the storyline. Aside from Coach Davis, we aren’t brought much closer to a fulfilling resolution from anyone else featured, even from the key members of the team. Bits and pieces of Willy, Jay, Dwight, Jeremy, and Chad’s stories are spotlighted, but more questions are left posed than answers provided.

Nonetheless, Edge of the World boasts a gratifying watch. While the plot hang-ups take away the chance of engrossment in the story, it tempts with the opportunity to gape over the aesthetic and technical accomplishments of one marvelously skilled cast and crew.

Edge of the World (2018) Directed and Edited by Randy Redroad. Starring Noah Alford, Megan Dalby, Jonathan Daviss, Stephanie Felton, Austin Filson, Richard T. Jones, Jeff Justus, Rex Linn, Juan Martinez, Will Meyers, Mollie Milligan, Trevor St. John.. Edge of the World screened at the 2018 Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.

6.5 out of 10 stars

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