The life of an actor in Hollywood is a hard one, to say the least. For every single celebrity the masses fawn over, there’s hundreds more aspiring performers that are ignored. After seven years of little-to-moderate success as an actor, Matt (Gregor Collins) finds himself at a crossroads. Should he stick it out some more, and keep the long-suffering dream going, or make the final decision to move on with his life, away from Los Angeles? As Matt searches for the answer, he reconnects with friends past and present, many struggling artists involved in their own battles with the Hollywood dream.
A collection of thematically-connected scenes layered on top of one another, filmmaker David Branin’s Goodbye Promise employs a somewhat unique narrative structure. While almost all scenes involve Matt, they’re not necessarily strung together in a traditional “this happened, and then this happened” order. We get the general timeframe due to an ever-ominous calendar Matt is marking off as the film goes along, heading towards his potentially final day in LA, but other than that we just get pieces and moments of his life as it plays out.
Because of this choice of structure, the film challenges and ultimately rewards those who truly pay attention, can be disconcerting if you let yourself wander too far away from what’s going on and, at the same time, because it’s an exploration of numerous themes, you’re not always penalized for letting your mind stray. It seems contradictory, but the narrative flow works, especially once you settle in. I’ll admit I was a bit lost in the beginning, but once I accepted that the experience was going to be a bit different than the norm, it smoothed itself out.
It also helps that all the acting in the film feels natural. While there are moments here and there that involve more of a dramatic rendering than the majority of the film, nothing has that sometimes false, “this is a performance, look at me” feel to it. The film has a groove, and the performances within allow you to relax into it.
That said, the groove isn’t going to be enough for everybody. While I found it engaging and honest, I can see how others might find it slightly confusing or sometimes slow. This isn’t for walk-by watching; you’ve got to invest more attention than passive observation. If you find yourself open to doing so, there may truly be something in this film for you.
Essentially, Goodbye Promise presents a number of truths that you may or may not find applicable to your life (they may not always be applicable to the lead character’s life either), and leaves it up to you to take away from it what you deem worthy. There are no absolute answers in this film, just examples and opportunities to learn or ignore. In that way, alongside the editorial structure, the film allows for a more engaging overall experience. Or not. Ultimately, it all rests with you.
At the time of this writing and until midnight PST on 09/12/12, Goodbye Promise is available online as part of an experimental new film distribution model via crowdfunding platform. Check out the Goodbye Promise IndieGoGo page to see how you can watch this film, if you are so inclined, for the small donation of $1.00.