In the “Special Thanks” section of the credits for “Tackle Box”, the names of Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly appear in the list. I’m not sure what the directors of “Dumb & Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary” did to get a place on that list, but if they were part of helping “Tackle Box” get seen, then many thanks to them. “Tackle Box” deserves to be seen as often as possible by as many people as possible and Slamdance is the perfect place to continue screenings of this masterful short, which could very well revive people’s faith in the cinema, if it’s been lost.
What sets “Tackle Box” far apart from any other shorts is the complete lack of dialogue. It’s not filmed in the style of a silent film, but is blessed with astounding cinematography by Robert Newcomb. Golden sunlight filters through the trees near a lake where an elderly husband (Ed Grady) and wife (Ann Owens-Pierce) go fishing like they always do. The wife loves fishing with all her heart and as the boat glides along to an emotionally lush score, we see her smile with pleasure, reeling another fish in and examining it with her husband.
The husband and wife come back to the house, and she stumbles a bit, but assures him that she’s ok. Unfortunately, as a telling fade-out reveals, she’s not ok. She comes into the kitchen and opens a cabinet, reaching for what could be pills or some other kind of medicine. She fades out; the camera resting on a table, focusing also on the tackle box she put down. Light fades into a sad, gloomy day with rain coming down and her husband, dressed in a black suit, walks in, with a turquoise urn, his wife’s ashes in it.
There’s a real sense of sadness on the soundtrack as the husband pours most of his wife’s white ashes into her favorite bait box. Then things take a strange turn later on as two thieves/drug dealers break into the house and begin stealing items left and right. They come upon the tackle box, open it up, and find the wife’s ashes, but mistake it for cocaine. Now, stay with me here. What this ends up turning into is a beautiful adaptation of Patti White’s poem, where the other people that come upon the cocaine, many buyers, find a new purpose in life by way of what the man’s wife loved most.
Slamdance audiences need to make an effort to see this. “Tackle Box” will be one of the most important offerings at the festival. For those that might not get a chance to see “Tackle Box” so quickly, I hope that director Matthew Mebane might one day consider a DVD release or even putting it online for thousands of people to see. With an orchestral score that contributes much emotion to the film, cinematography that will leave you stunned, and actors who are well aware of the story and make it work without dialogue, this is hands down one of the best shorts I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Believe me, if I had the dough to throw around, I’d personally distribute this, even take it across the country if necessary. This is true cinematic poetry.