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By Amy R. Handler | May 27, 2013

Sex, lies, videotape, and an abandoned smartphone spell trouble for a down on his luck guy trying to find his place in life.

Steven Payne’s Finding Samantha Dixon explores several days in the odd life of a young man named Joshua. Never without his videocam, the socially inept Josh gets his kicks by filming all the women he has, not surprisingly, lost due to his vast insensitivity. One day, Joshua’s life abruptly changes when he finds an iPhone in an open field.

Finding Samantha Dixon is a found footage film that simultaneously poses as a mockumentary coming-of-age tale and a full-blown mystery thriller. The fact that this ambitious approach to moviemaking actually compels its viewers at virtually every cinematic moment (sometimes in spite of the principal character’s often obnoxious, and sometimes trying, antics) is a testament to Steven Payne’s strong and interesting script.

What’s particularly intriguing is Payne’s ability to take chances and avoid the formulaic stance of far too many filmmakers—even those independent ones who, on paper at least, are supposed to flee from this Hollywood entrapment. One case in point is how Payne approaches the character Melissa at the very beginning of the film. Melissa (superbly enacted by the beautiful Sarah C Davis) is walking toward, and driving her car, while embroiled in a heated discussion with Joshua. However, we’ve not yet seen Joshua in the movie, and in fact never view him, in this sequence. This of course leads us to think that Melissa is carrying on a volatile conversation with herself and is, therefore, stark raving mad. Payne’s unique interpretation of Alfred Hitchcock’s MacGuffin technique is both darkly humorous and disturbing, leaving viewers disarmed early on—which is a very good thing…

There are certain troublesome aspects of the feature that keep Finding Samantha Dixon from a perfect 5 star rating. These include: silhouetting of faces in some scenes due to the characters standing in front of a light source, and the sometimes longer than necessary shenanigans of Joshua that remind us of that kid we hated in middle school.

Still, Jordy Williams does a great job of enacting the complex, camera-wielding Joshua, who veers between loathsome voyeurism, and riddle-resolving tenacity, the likes of which would make Lieutenant Columbo stand up and take notice.

Finding Samantha Dixon is definitely a great choice for those who enjoy being immersed in the plot in more ways than one. Leave the kids at home, though, as there is some nudity.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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