Mini-Review: Arcadia


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!


One of the greatest tools at a filmmaker’s disposal is their ability to manipulate time. I recall in one of my screenwriting courses we were asked how long, hypothetically, it would take in movie time to dispose of a murder victim. Answers varied. We were then shown what I believe was a 15 minute sequence in Blood Simple wherein a murder victim was stowed, transported and buried. There is no correct answer to the hypothetical question, what determines the answer is how intrinsic said activity is to the plot and the film as a whole.

This brings me to Arcadia which tells the tale of a father and moving with his children cross-country by car. There are a few things that are purposely nebulous throughout (what this job is, why their mother isn’t with them, what the nature of their temporary separation is) but the film get stretched out past its simple parameters with cutaways and b-roll to accentuate the passage of time a bit too effectively.

This film is a very good character study, that could plumb deeper depths sooner if it so chose too. It features standout performances by John Wilkes, who since Winter’s Bone has been cornering the market on meaty character work for male characters of his age and type; Ryan Simpkins who in smaller films, and of less frequency than she merits, is finding challenging roles and rising to the occasion as stoically, if not more so, than Chloe Moretz; and her brother Ty Simpkins, in an example of casting real life siblings working brilliantly, he frequently steals scenes both of comedic and dramatic nature. Yet, these performances, and the plot they operate within, don’t have the impact they could in the end because of the drag of time this film consciously implements. Verisimilitude can be a great thing, and emotionally the ebb and flow makes sense, however, a quicker, more violent storm likely would’ve made as much sense, and carried significantly more weight.

What will stay with me from this film is the outstanding, dynamic performances of the Simpkins siblings, and how I wish the overall experience was as electric as their work in it.


NOTE: Ty and Ryan Simpkins were the first brother and sister nominated for BAM Awards in the same film!