A Pity is the feature-length directorial debut of Alec and Kevin Barth, who also wrote the film. The drama is set in a monastery, though there’s only one inhabitant. Said person, known only as the Diver (James C. Burns), owns the place, having bought it some time ago for a great price. On this day, his daughter (Sarah Carter) comes to visit. She goes on about the accusations he faces and how this “family problem” follows her around as well. Due to a self-imposed vow of silence, the Diver never responds to his daughter.
Later that day, the Diver recalls that which fell him. He was once a mighty politician and met a twenty-something lady one night, his Accuser (Carlson Young). His predatory actions that night led him to his current predicament. No wonder his daughter is so mad, and his wife (Joely Fisher) is conflicted, confused, and hurt by it all. Can the Diver find redemption hiding away in his personal sanctuary?
A Pity conveys quite a hard-to-hear message. But the Barths manage to examine all the main players with deep insight. Through the careful use of flashbacks and impactful dialogue, the story leaves no stone unturned in what makes someone prey on the helpless. Is it something lurking inside them at all times? Is it poor judgment in a moment of weakness? Either way, it harm’s everyone.
“He was once a mighty politician and met a twenty-something lady one night…”
Burns is amazing as the (mostly) silent lead. His voice is heard in flashbacks and recordings, and the actor nails the charm, creep factor, and dissatisfaction with how things went. Fisher’s frustrations are felt in every word of eviscerating monologue. Carter is sweet and clearly still wants good for her on-screen father. Young plays the Accuser’s interview about what happened with the right amount of sadness and pity. David Agranov comes in late to the picture but makes quite the impression.
A Pity is also helped by its remarkable cinematography and lighting. Long takes with just natural or limited lighting (a single candle or some such) mesmerize. The expansive, lonely monastery looms large above the Diver. The glow of the television playing the interview casts an eerie pall.
A Pity is a little hard to watch, but that is the point. The story is designed to make audience members uncomfortable, but in a good way (does that make sense?). The cast is excellent, the cinematography is stunning, and the narrative hits hard where it counts.
For more information, visit the A Pity official website.
"…hits hard where it counts."