Union Bridge begins as Will Shipe (Scott Friend) returns to his small Southern hometown after being away for some years. As Will once again familiarizes himself with the town, he reconnects with his former best friend Nick (Alex Breaux). Nick is something of a social pariah around town, as everyone believes he has lost his mind. Nick claims to have visions of Confederates burying something, though the exact spot remains elusive. So, now he digs for it as much as possible.
Meanwhile, Will begins to fall for Nick’s cousin Mary (Emma Duncan), of which Will’s overbearing, passive-aggressive mom, Jeanie (Elisabeth Noone), does not approve. So, she decides to try to talk Mary out of seeing her son and attempts to get Will to prevent Nick from digging any further. Why is Jeanie so bent on never digging up the past, both literally and metaphorically? How is Mary tied to all this?
“…Will begins to fall for…Mary, of which Will’s…mom…does not approve.”
Writer-director Brian Levin favors long, mostly silent shots to establish atmosphere, as the characters ruminate on their past, where they are now, and what they want. Dialogue is only there when necessary, as Levin is more interested in showing the audience the characters’ inner lives versus dumping endless, unnecessary exposition to explain it all away. Don’t misconstrue that statement. The conversations that do take place feel realistic and work. Levin knows that the dialogue is not unnecessary when a well-lit shot with mood music can convey so much more.
To that end, director of photography Sebastian Slayter lenses a sumptuous looking film, that captures the beauty and ugliness of the American South. A sequence seeing a group of women praying by the river is gorgeous to gaze upon. When Will and Mary are on a date looking at model trains, then at a store to buy some (I think; this was not entirely clear) the handheld camera and the song on the soundtrack merge for a dreamy, sweet sequence that is a nice reprieve from the seriousness of everything else.