These accidents are not "little."
Director: Sara Colangelo
Cast: Elizabeth Banks (W.), Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl)
Runtime: 105 min
by John DeSando
“What do you think it’s like to die?” Owen (Jacob Lofland)
It’s a given that tragic death in a small town stays forever, impinging on virtually every life now and hereafter. First-time writer-director Sara Colangelo’s Little Accidents, set in a coal town, echoes The Sweet Hereafter’s frozen aftermath of children’s deaths aboard a bus plunging into a pond. Both involve decisions to reveal or not the culpable parties; both intercut among those players who are most affected by the tragedy.
Young Owen (Jacob Lofland) witnesses the death of JT (Travis Tope) and hides the truth. JT is the son of manager Bill Doyle (Josh Lucas) and Owen is a deceased coal miner’s son. The accident that killed his dad and nine others is under investigation as the union fights to suppress testimony from conflicted survivor Amos (Boyd Holbrook, who reminds me of Keith Carradine) that would incriminate the coal company and shut down the mine.
You can begin to see the inter-connections, as is true in any small town, and the inherent conflicts, exacerbated by the closeness and the sometimes illicit connections, such as JT’s mom, Diana Doyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Amos. Colangelo keeps the plot slowly moving ahead while some characters and events border on the formulaic. When Owen helps Diana with her garden, the plot takes an unfortunate contrivance tack. Yet the drama is still effectively bound to us as figurative for communal responsibility and domino-effect relationships and tragedies.
Cinematographer Rachel Morrison effectively creates the working-class milieu, much as in Out of the furnace, in part because she uses a great deal of natural light reinforced by old-fashioned 35mm film.
It’s not a gloomy world, just one dominated by grey skies and dim futures. No sunshine can mitigate the sense of loss pervading the town. Accidents are hardly little.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com