The Keeper Image

The Keeper

By Bobby LePire | June 17, 2024

There are times during The Keeper, written by Todd Tavolazzi and directed by Angus Benfield and Kendall Bryant Jr., that the dialogue comes across as cultish. The various characters that veteran George Eshleman (Benfield) meets while on his trek across the Appalachian Trail say things like “the trail will provide.” They all have “trail names,” which is a thing…? If an audience member isn’t into hiking hardcore, there’s a chance parts of this film will be off-putting or come across as strange unintentionally. But is the story good enough to pull through those awkward moments?

George is hiking into Georgia with hundreds of name tapes attached to his already big pack. The name tapes represent veterans who lost their lives due to suicide. On his trip, George, who does not have a trail name yet, comes across several people, a good portion of whom are veterans or currently serving in the armed forces. As the mountains and woods go on and on, George must come face-to-face with his demons and try to find the strength to keep going when so many of his brothers and sisters in arms are gone. Does George complete his hiking journey, or does he succumb to the darkness that has engulfed so many soldiers since the world began?

George is hiking into Georgia with hundreds of name tapes attached to his already big pack.”

Structurally, The Keeper brings to mind, of all films, The Brown Bunny. The lead is on both a literal and metaphorical quest, wherein they meet people who thematically are tied to it somehow (veterans and flowery representations of femininity, respectively) while being haunted by tragedies of the past. While this is certainly less controversial, it is still compelling in its own right. George is an interesting presence, and his dedication and duty to the name tapes are unquestionable and unending. Haley Babula as “Peanut” Sophie Champoux, an Army vet George meets, is really great and adds a unique perspective. Bug (Judah Bonza) and his father, Long Step (Lance Bonza), showcase how military life has consequences off the battlefield.

Benfield is incredible as the determined, somewhat tense veteran. He’s likable but also sells the more disquieting elements well. Babula brings the heart of the film to life in a scene where she shares her tense backstory. Bonza and Bonza are fun together and play off Benfield nicely.

The Keeper is an engaging drama that showcases the dark and light sides of soldiers who are not in a war. The acting is excellent, with each person feeling suitable for their role. The story structure is compelling and highlights the duality of the protagonist’s desires well.

The Keeper (2024)

Directed: Angus Benfield, Kendall Bryant Jr.

Written: Todd Tavolazzi

Starring: Angus Benfield, Haley Babula, Judah Bonza, Lance Bonza, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Keeper Image

"…an engaging drama..."

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