Ricky D’Ambrose’s Shattering Family Saga – The Hollywood Reporter

As Tolstoy says, if all happy families are alike, it may be because they are not obvious to the rest of us, whose friction and rift are also part of the intimate experience. good as love. Jesse, the only super-observant kid at the center of Ricky D’Ambrose’s Great Church, which tells all the specifics of his unhappy family – not just his parents’ divorce when he was 10, not just his dad’s constant struggles, financial and other things, but also the awkward silence and baggage of the generation, the tense celebration of childbirth on the side of grace. The writer-director-editor’s small-targeted sophomore, now streaming on Mubi, combines memorized interactions and still-life shots with deliberate precision, elliptical, the key notes build into a chord that resonates with the sting of lost time and indescribable emotions.

Through the eyes of the filmmaker’s alter ego, an artist in the making named Jesse Damrosch, born in 1987, this trait emerged in the last years of the 20th century. Key compositions moderator of DP Barton Cortright, who also shot D’Ambrose’s Notes on formthere are nasty, as if indelible, underground lines of Terence Davies Voices far away, still alive washed and rinsed in the sunshine of Long Island.

Great Church

Key point

Pack a heartbreaking punch.

Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Singer Geraldine
Director and screenwriter: Ricky D’Ambrose

1 hour 28 minutes

At the base of the film’s fractured family tree is an event that happened before Jesse was born: the AIDS death of his father’s brother, an issue the family treats in denial. related to delusion, a dumb denial that is symbolic of most of what happens in the years that follow.

Jesse appears on screen at the age of 3 (Hudson McGuire), 9 (Henry Glendon Walter V), 12 (Robert Levey II) and 17 (William Bednar-Carter) – sometimes looking directly into Cortright’s camera, wide open. eyes and curiosity, sometimes confronting an invisible photographer for class photos, and sometimes interacting with his parents and other loved ones. D’Ambrose continues to portray the film through voiceovers, with Madeleine James providing background details and descriptions of off-screen events with empathetic authority.

The story benefits from this sense of omniscience. At first, it’s fueled by a long sense of possibility and beginnings: the marriage of Richard Damrosch (heartbreaking Brian d’Arcy James) and Lydia Orkin (Monica Barbaro, flawless in a role that’s barely developed. more developed, more symbolic) and gave birth to their son. In the fictional New York town of Haylett, they buy an apartment and he starts a printing business. A friend (Steven Alonte) provides important financial help, while Richard’s father (Gorman John Ruggiero) is mostly emotionally absent. For his unwavering, nurturing mother (Melinda Tanner), he will never get over her death.

There is tension between Richard and his wife, Nick (Mark Zeisler, excellent) and Flora (an excellent and exceptionally memorable Geraldine Singer), even at the wedding. The hatred boiled and built into an explosive clash. At the same time, the relatively stable Nick and Flora have severed contact with her older sister, Billie (Cynthia Mace, upset during her brief on-screen time), apparently because of problems caring for their mother, Josephine. She is played by a Candy Dato that silently affects what turns out to be a nightmare of dependence. Homeless and at the mercy of her children, Josephine must endure a brief stay with her ferocious son (Roy Abramsohn) and his callous wife (Rosanne Rubino), her self-esteem they are punctuated by a thunderbolt passage from Shostakovich.

There are other horrors: for starters, clowns and ventriloquists show up at family parties for Jesse. Some of these gatherings take place in banquet halls, a specific aspect of middle-class New York that Ray Romano explores, a little more comically, in Somewhere in Queens. D’Ambrose’s aerial photographs of white tablecloths, coffee cups, and dessert plates, combined with subtle narration and sound work, provide a poetic, deeply etched feeling. high solution.

The film’s still, seemingly uncollected image contains a world of memories, moments that exist in time with a strange urgency whether we understand their emotional basis or not. – and often because we don’t understand. The majority of household items are laid out in rooms with researched, anti-manufactured-design spaces. Production designer Grace Sloan brings a touch of comfort to other interiors of aged inhabited homes in idyllic suburban towns.

D’Ambrose builds on a sense of time and place with edgy advertising uses – for the Kodak film, for the Statue of Liberty centennial coins – as well as news footage news about time-defining disasters and other hallmarks of the times: Desert Storm; the crash of TWA flight 800 off Long Island; the Gary Condit – Chandra Levy scandal; Daniel Pearl’s murder; Michael Savage’s sensational political commentary on presidential candidate John Kerry; a grieving Nancy Reagan at her husband’s funeral; Bao Katrina. D’Ambrose suggests that myth-making is built into these larger cultural events; by contrast, the Damrosches and Orkins, like most American families, were left to their own improvisations.

There are occasional petty and often empty talks at birthdays, confirmations, and graduations. It’s clear that Jesse is front and center in these encounters, but in reality, the weight of the family drama – and the insistence on remaining “not trying to settle the differences”, in the short description short of the narrator – pushing him into the corner, no different from how he was taught in school to move “a single brochure down the hallway,” because it was less of a hassle for grown-ups.

Great Church documenting an artist’s awakening, not only in his drawings and the films he began making as a teenager, but also in the way he saw and reacted to the world around him. – a book with intricate drawings intrigued him, and later on, the picture became a window into his family story. D’Ambrose’s movie is consistent with sensitive kids staying inside, watching and holding their breath while the adults convince themselves they’re not messing things up.

For Jesse, that means navigating not only his parents’ divorce but their subsequent marriage, which is bad news in different ways (the new couple is played by Matthew Hammond and Myxolydia Tyler. ). And it will mean knowing how his father, brought to life by d’Arcy James, full of wounds, competes for validation and redemption amid stalemates and blows, and struggles to find words.

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