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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Into the Arms of Strangers

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If a film has an intriguing premise and solid acting, I'm willing to forgive the occasional odd directorial choice or weak script moment. This is especially true with low-budget films and specifically the case with Into the Arms of Strangers. As the film opens we meet Andy (Ron Carey) and his wife Erin (April Wade). They appear to be a loving couple but cracks soon begin to show. Andy has been suffering from amnesia since a terrible car accident and relies on Erin to supply him with his own memories. It is a source of constant tension between them. After all, if memories form a great part of our identity, who are we if we don't have any?

Then one day, something bizarre happens. Andy goes to a party and sees a picture of himself clowning around on the beach with a group of people he doesn't recognize at all. Later, he meets a young woman named Marie (Alison Haislip) who obviously knows him very well and is stunned to find out that he's still alive. But he doesn't recognize her either. Stranger still, Marie later brings him to visit Sam (Juliana Dever), a total stranger who's recently been drifting into Andy's dreams. What is going on here? Did Andy have a whole other life before his accident that he doesn't remember? And, if so, why has his wife never mentioned it to him?

From there, the film plunges deeper into the old rabbit-hole. Slowly, Andy begins to piece things together, but the answers he finds provide more distress than comfort and new questions keep coming apace. That's my only real problem with the film. It eventually tries to tell too much story and much of that story--particularly the last act--is needlessly spectacular. The best parts of Into the Arms of Strangers are the quiet moments when we can just see Andy trying to reconcile what's happening now and what happened before. It's a great credit to Ron Carey that he is able to make those moments significant, deeply reminiscent of Martin Donovan in Amateur.

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In fact, it is ultimately Carey who holds the film together. Director Chris Harris does a decent job behind the camera, but a car chase and gunfight are badly staged and his cinematography relies far too much on shaky handheld close-ups. Considering he was also the co-writer, editor and VFX artist on the film, it's legitimate to question whether the film might have benefitted from additional perspectives. Of course, that's the issue all low-budget films face--there just isn't enough money to hire a professional crew and filmmakers often end up wearing too many hats (including some that don't really fit). Still, the film is worth a look.

Into the Arms of Strangers screens tonight at 9:30 at the Sunset 5 as part of DancesWithFilms

Photo courtesy of Tyr Jung