Micro-indie benefits from sensitive portrayals of young people in crisis.
Tre Manchester could just make a horror film and develop a calling card. But the writer/director clearly wants to make movies about something. And “Bleed American,” like his previous film “The Things We’ve Seen,” takes on weighty issues of family, addiction, and economic hardship against the ugly underbelly of the American gothic.
When Larson Granger (Jarrett Maier) wakes in his family’s trailer, he discovers that his mother hasn’t returned from a night out. His younger siblings are preparing for school amidst debris of the tiny abode, scattered with empty beer bottles and pizza boxes. When mom does finally arrive, she’s drunk and stumbles to the bedroom where she has a seizure requiring EMS. This isn’t out of the ordinary for the Granger family.
As mom recovers in the hospital, Larson has to take care of his 13 year-old sister and his younger brother L.J. (Austin Holloway). The family unit is close-nit, but the strain has begun to pull them apart. And by the look of things, maybe they need to be separated and sent to live with responsible adults. A crash is on the horizon.
Manchester’s script is loose and has an improvisational quality. The writing is matched by a run-and-gun visual style that follows the characters as they wander. These young people want to do right, but due to their youth and inexperience, they are in desperate need of some structure to guide them. The camera-work capably conveys the random nature of their rough lives, left reeling by the departure of the one adult in their family.
As another example of Manchester’s work, “Bleed American” is a more coherent film than his last, in that “The Things We’ve Seen” started solidly with images and sequences consistent with a high-end production that, unfortunately, could not maintain that level as the story progressed. By going smaller with “Bleed American,” Manchester lives up to independent expectations.
Again working with actor Jarrett Maier and others, Manchester builds on his relationships managing to get solid performances. The two will be working together on the comedy “My Wonderful F#cking Life,” and after two heavy movies, it will be good to see what they can do with less weighty material.
“Bleed American” is a film that shows the progression of a young devoted group of filmmakers and actors, who are cinematically coming of age.