Writer-director Sara Colangelo’s feature debut Little Accidents tells the bleak story of life after tragedy in a West Virginia coal-mining town. After an explosion kills nine coal miners, three stories are linked together – the only survivor, “Amos” (Boyd Holbrook) the coal mine executive, “Bill” (Josh Lucas) and his wife, “Diane” (Elizabeth Banks), and the teenage son of a fallen miner, “Owen” (Jacob Lofland).
The film picks up as with Amos being questioned about memories of the explosion. His memory is blank, his mood solemn. The focus of the investigation shifts to upper-class couple Bill and Diane and their involvement in the accident. On the other side of town, lined with lower-class houses and trailer parks, is a freshman in high school, Owen. Since his father died in the accident, Owen is burdened with helping his mother “Kendra” (Chloe Sevigny) and tending to his Down Syndrome brother “James” (Beau Wright). On a cloudy, dreary afternoon – the common imagery throughout the film – Owen brings beer to a group of high school boys, hoping to fit in their group. But when Bill and Diane’s bully son “JT” (Travis Tope) starts chasing him, another tragedy strikes and Owen is left with a deep, dark secret to keep.
The main action focuses on Diane and the circumstances surrounding her son’s disappearance and her husband’s involvement in the coalmine. She joins Amos at a local Bible study and the two quickly form an unlikely romance. Meanwhile, Owen struggles with the information about JT’s disappearance and whether to tell the truth about what actually happened. The entire film is filled with angst and gloom, but nothing powerful enough to sustain interest. Watching Diane’s downward spiral – complete with hyperventilation – is tiring. The frustration of watching Diane’s cluelessness comes from the dramatic irony of knowing what happened to JT in the first act.
The location, however, added a certain depth to the film. Shot on location in a real coal-mining town in West Virginia, the camera catches the true essence of a class-divided town. The music, or lack thereof, adds a gloomy element to an already depressing mood. The most impressive part of Little Accidents is the cast, most notably Banks as a distraught mother on the brink of marital implosion. Lucas and Holbrook convincingly portray both the husband and the motel-buddy, respectively. The most engaging key player is young Jacob Lofland as the distressed brother and son, so convincing for someone so young. With a solid cast, good location, and impressive technical elements, Little Accidents failed to tell a compelling story.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (1/19/15)
Top Photo: Elizabeth Banks as worried mother “Diane”
Bottom Photo: Jacob Lofland as “Owen” and Beau Wright as brother “James” whose father died in a mine accident
Q: Does Little Accidents pass the Bechdel Test?