“Mitchellville” is a mysterious dream in which plot lines wander in unexpectedly from the subconscious and add layers of meaning to the protagonist’s life. So intertwined are the different parts of writer/director John D. Harkrider’s dreamscape that it’s even unclear whether Gabriel (Harkrider) is describing his dream as part of a psychiatric evaluation to receive a partnership in his corporate law firm or if the interview is merely part of the dream. The truth is never spelled out, but suggested in carefully planted details and gradual revelations until a quiet monologue concludes the life of a character who has created an alternate reality to cope with conflicts and disappointments in his real life.
Title cards divide the film into the different days of the week, perhaps referring to the evaluation interview, but the story feels expansive and the dream Gabriel describes slowly drifts from its initial narrative structure, which involves Gabriel and his wife Tessa’s (Anna Lodej) anniversary. A slimy boss at the firm (Michael Voyer) keeps Gabriel working so he can flirt with Tessa. Divergent story lines surface as Gabriel is sent to South Carolina to investigate, or perhaps simply destroy, evidence involving one of his firm’s deals. Meanwhile, in a connected yet disjointed reality, he reclaims his love for music by taking flute lessons from Ken (Herb Lovelle), an old man whose background connects with many jazz legends. All the while, a man seems to be following Gabriel through airports, offices and streets for unknown reasons. These manifestations represent a disconnect between Gabriel’s true self and the man he is today. Ken serves Gabriel’s desires to reclaim the nobel ideals he had when he set out to become a civil rights lawyer, while the crooked dealings of his firm make him angrier about the man he currently pretends to be.
In his debut, Harkrider has crafted a wonderful looking feature with far more polish than the budget would suggest. Soophrum Sohn’s eerie cinematography and Mylene Santos’s art direction of airport corridors, apartments covered with histories and soulless corporate law offices work perfectly to form the worlds existing in Gabriel’s mind. While I’m still thinking about “Mitchellville’s” mysteries after one visit, I’d certainly like to return.