DANCES WITH FILMS 2021 REVIEW! From the onset, Evan Wood presents the feeling of wishing for sunshine on a cloudy day but never knowing if it’ll come. Director Niki Byrne and screenwriters Charlotte Louise Spencer and Alejandro Lopez make the case that drug addiction is dealing with that feeling all the time. The drama’s main character Rachel Wood (Charlotte Louise Spencer), is a dedicated creative writing major in college who works as a barista and has a group of good friends.
When she went to college, Rachel left her loving grandmother, a very shallow ex-boyfriend, a mother who died from drug addiction, a caring uncle and aunt, and her brother, Evan (Alex Sorian Brown). During her time in higher education, Rachel’s creative writing professor (Jere Burns) makes her question her choice of major. When Rachel learns of her grandmother’s passing, she decides to return home for Thanksgiving for the funeral. Suffering writer’s block, as her professor wonders if she’s “exhausted, distracted, or in love,” Rachel is advised to write what she knows and so she decides to scribble about her family.
“…not only encounters a past that was left behind but her brother Evan’s drug addiction.”
Once back home, during a contentious time filled with grief, Rachel uncovers family secrets, including Evan’s drug addiction. She also directly confronts the demons of her childhood, searching for the strength to leave behind all that she cannot fix, even if that means saying goodbye to family. But, of course, it does not help matters that Evan’s friend, Jessica (Amy Walker), encourages him to use and is addicted herself. Can Rachel ever truly find solace in her life when her brother is still chasing the dragon? Can Evan face reality and get clean?
Early on, I was pulled out of Evan Wood because the professor and the boyfriend are too flippant and shallow. Alex Sorian Brown, considering he’s the titular Evan, oddly does not have a powerful presence but the very damaging way he lives his life feels authentic. However, his counterpart, Amy Walker, gives a performance that reveals the ugliness of drug addiction that so many endure. Plus, Spencer makes for an empathetic lead, whose motivations ring true, even when relying on cliches or tropes, as much of the screenplay does.
Although Evan Wood takes on the very big issue of drug addiction and those who are left dealing with it, it’s a bit underbaked. It lacks the emotional charge and backstory to grip the viewer for a story so many people know and understand on a personal level—”to live in grief and hope.” Yet, the film does have a nice roster of actors who are all on the move, and for first-time director Niki Byrne, it is a film for her to grow on.
Evan Wood screened at the 2021 Dances With Films.
"…for first-time director Niki Byrne, it is a film for her to grow on."