NEW TO THEATERS! Much of middle America is littered with small towns struggling to survive. In Braden King’s The Evening Hour, a small Appalachian town, like many others, is experiencing economic decline as its primary source of revenue, mining, and lumber has dried up and in its place is a severe opioid problem.
Based on Carter Sickels’ novel of the same name, The Evening Hour stars Philip Ettinger as Cole Freeman. Cole has found a way to make some good money and help his community. By day, he works at a nursing home, providing aid and comfort for the seniors forgotten by their families. At night, Cole buys prescription opioid drugs from one half of the community and sells it to the other half for a hefty profit.
Business is good until an old friend Terry (Cosmo Jarvis), comes back to town. He recently lost his job in a nearby city and has decided to return home to start cooking meth. Terry needs Cole’s help, particularly, at the old church, where Cole’s father used to preach, where they’ll be cooking said meth. Terry also wants access to Cole’s existing customer base. Cole flat out says no, and now the story begins.
“By day, he works at a nursing home…At night, Cole [sells] prescription opioid drugs…”
Terry decides to go on his own with the help of Cole’s junkie girlfriend. Terry’s new business also doesn’t sit well with the town’s current drug lord, Everett (Marc Menchaca), who would rather kill Terry than let him encroach on his territory. As happens in the world of crime, Terry’s actions have a direct consequence on Cole and his survival.
The Evening Hour is a character study of Cole adding a few subplots to complicate his life. Cole is essentially a good guy and upstanding figure, who also runs a low-stakes narcotics operation. Can you be a good person while acting as a minor drug lord? Vito Corleone, he’s not. The business is still illegal, which complicates his friendship with a local cop and his girlfriend, who is Cole’s nursing home supervisor. Then there’s the pretty new bartender, who just returned home to start a new life with her kid. Then, out of the blue, Cole’s mother (Lily Taylor), who abandoned him as a child, returns to make amends.
The Evening Hour is one of those sad stories about a guy with a heart of gold, trying to make something of his life, and almost getting there. But just when things are looking good, someone knocks over the first domino setting off an unstoppable chain of events. Cole’s story is much more complicated than it appears. While he is trying to make something of himself, Cole also carries the responsibility of an entire community on his shoulders, including his grandmother, aunt, elderly customers, junkie girlfriend, and ex-con best friend.
Phillip Ettinger is good as he carries the entire film and is in every scene of the movie. Also, good is Elizabeth Palmore’s adaptation of Shickel’s novel. The story never feels rushed, nor does it have gaping plot holes, which often happens with adaptations. The character of Cole has many threads flailing in the wind that ties up nicely at the end.
Lastly, director Braden King makes good use of his setting. He maintains the feels of an economically depressed Appalachian town, which is a character in and of itself.
The Evening Hour screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
"…has many threads flailing in the wind that ties up nicely at the end."