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By Lucas McNelly | November 2, 2011

The 2011 Flyway Film Festival closed with David Nordstrom’s Sawdust City, a local film from nearby Eau Claire, Wisconsin (which I’m going to assume is or was called “Sawdust City”). The film follows Bob (David Nordstrom) and Pete (Carl McLaughlin), two brothers searching for their estranged father in the various dive bars of Eau Claire on Thanksgiving.

Pete is home on leave for 2 days from basic training for the Navy. He’s a vagabond, having been in and out of town since 15, always on the move, never settling. Bob is the opposite. He’s got a house and a wife (who just happens to be Pete’s ex) and a kid on the way. Their father? Neither of them has heard from him in years.

And so they search, one bar after another. Before long, they meet Gene (Lee Lynch), a friend of their father’s and boyfriend of a “lumberjill”, which is exactly what you think it is. Gene’s in the film to provide some comic relief, and his introduction is a fittingly hilarious rant about his girlfriend’s new tramp stamp of her child’s face.

Before long, they’re too drunk to drive, so they walk through Eau Claire. Along the way, they reconnect as only brothers can.

I have a brother who’s only 2 years younger than myself. We both live vastly different lives. Nordstrom’s film absolutely nails that unique dynamic. There’s a scene after a rather tense scene where Pete and Bob sit at the bar, wordlessly nursing their beers. It’s one shot, uncut for I’m guessing 70 seconds or so and it’s flat-out perfect. Astonishing, really. You can count on one hand the number of filmmakers who would have put that shot there, and it’s fantastic.

I can’t say enough good things about this film. Nordstrom is directing himself in a script he wrote and all three aspects of the film are well-executed. Oh, and he cut the film too.

Sawdust City is low budget in the mold of the early films of the Duplass Brothers, and it’s a nearly flawless film. Because of A Year Without Rent, I probably won’t submit a Muriel ballot this year, but if I did (and it got eligible) Sawdust City would be all over my ballot. It might be the best film of the year.

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