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By Admin | April 24, 2007

The first time that filmmaker Dallas Jenkins made “Midnight Clear,” he exhibited an ability to grab an audience right from the shot of Stephen Baldwin as Lefty holding a gun up to his chin. Baldwin became the most improved Baldwin brother, removed from the trash that came before, with the promise of being a better actor, and he was.

Jenkins’s second time with “Midnight Clear,” at feature length and therefore with the stories of his original characters expanded along with new characters added, is awe-inspring, a wonderment, a look into lives that we ourselves might live too. There are so many words for this version of “Midnight Clear,” so much to say, and it’s honestly a little hard to say it with not having yet come down from the way one’s heart soars from watching it, from seeing in Jenkins a filmmaker who had better keep on making films and should mine more stories from his father, Jerry B. Jenkins of the “Left Behind” book series, which should not cause uncertainty to those who may not like Jenkins’s books. For what’s here is an adaptation of the “Midnight Clear” short film from the elder Jenkins’s short story, and the younger Jenkins populates his film with faces, genuine faces.

These actors do act in such ways that make us think through our own lives as we’re watching it and that’s one of many indications of great acting. They have a lot to do because this is a look at loss first. Everyone’s lost something. The somewhat disheveled Lefty (Baldwin) lost his job and now risks losing visitation rights with his kids. Eva (K Callan) has lost touch with her family, and now resides in a lonely house. Kirk (Kirk B.R. Woller), a gas station attendant, has lost something and it can be seen on his face, but it’s not important to know right away simply because he, as with other characters, take the entire running time to develop, which is a rarity, for a film to have this much patience, to want us to take the time to get to know these people and hopefully glean something from them. We do. We definitely do.

There’s also Mary (Mary Thornton) who’s lost her husband Rick after a car accident that left him with brain damage and living in a care facility, not as communicative as he once was. Her young son Jacob (Dominic Scott Kay) perhaps feels some kind of loss from this but strong soul that he is, he doesn’t show it. And Mitch (Mitchell Jarvis) doesn’t understand why he’s leading teenage carolers to different houses to sing for people that he believes don’t really care and the gifts given to them are just an obligatory part of the run, but he wonders what the purpose is. Why do this?

All these people live in a town that’s without reason for decorating anything for Christmas. Though the film takes place on Christmas Eve, you wouldn’t know it until one of these people mentions it. But what matters even moreso besides the time period is how all these actors band together for what really feels like a very collaborative experience. It’s not just a film made by Dallas Jenkins; everyone you see onscreen contributes just as much, as well as the expressive cinematography by Randall Walker Gregg who is surprisingly a first-time feature film cinematographer. And it’s astonishing because of such emotional touches as the cool whites in the law office conference room where Lefty is ambushed by his ex-wife’s lawyers. It’s the kind of cinematography that works with the actors, each contributing something that meshes so well together.

“Midnight Clear” is also what should convince other indie filmmakers to hire Stephen Baldwin, or at least Jenkins to keep working with him. For Lefty, life fell on something sharp and Baldwin plays it like that, nearly dead-eyed, but knowing what he must do, even if there’s nothing left for him with his current lot in life. This deeply felt performance also stems from a script by Wes Halula which feels so right by dialogue alone, that it’s as if Halula had been with Jenkins from the beginning. He understands the characters that well, and never favors one over the other. All of them make up what Jenkins patiently works toward and that’s the message that even in loneliness, even in feeling disconnected from everything, even when there feels like there’s nothing to live for, there may still be hope. And with the cast, and the efforts of Jenkins and others who have made “Midnight Clear” what it is, it can only be hoped that it finds success that’s well deserved, because this is one of the purest definitions of an involving drama.

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  1. Bob Domonkos says:

    this reviewer is more brain damaged than the husband in the movie

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