Feb 11, 2016

A satisfying romance that eschews some of the romantic formula.


Grade: B+

Director: Sean Mewshaw

Screenplay: Mewshaw, Desiree Van Til

Cast: Rebecca Hall (The Town), Jason Sudekis (We’re the Millers)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 45 min.

by John DeSando

Reviewing a Nicholas Sparks’-related film is not a happy assignment because of its near-guarantee of maudlin, tear jerking sentiment.  Hooray! Because Tumbledown is the anti-Sparks romance, nothing to do with his weepers, in fact a hard-nosed but sympathetic study of Hannah’s (Rebecca Hall) writing a biography of her notably- accomplished folk-singer, late husband’s short life.

Although this summary might seem Sparksean, it is not that at all. Perhaps the innocence and originality of the production comes from its freshman director, Sean Mewshaw and his collaborating writer, his wife, Desiree Van Til.  Both are gifted and devoid of the penchant for cliché so dominant in other romances.

This realist-oriented romance finds Hannah struggling with her writing and her business-associate, a college professor, Andrew (Jason Sudekis).  Although a certain element of formula must be present as she insults him regularly (a sure sign they will fall in love), it is 90 min before they kiss—another Hooray! During this first 2/3, most of the dialogue is rapid and sardonic, a sweetness to my word-addicted ears.

Moments occur in this dialogue-driven segment when I am reminded of the early 20th century love of screwball comedic repartee. The rapid fire insults and witticism are nectar to those of us who have grown up on Jud Apatow’s romcoms potty humor and pratfalls. While Tumbledown has its moments of pratfalls and excessive dialogue, overall it is balm for the ears, and, given the attractiveness of Hall and Sudekis, a sight for sore eyes.

Because I lived for a year in Northern Maine, I must laud the picture’s artists for capturing small town Maine life without parodying its apparent narrowness and gruffness.  A warm interior lies at the center of the outwardly hostile natives; it’s a warm interior that catches heat from the ubiquitous fireplaces (we had wood stoves).  Visitors from the city like Andrew and his girlfriend, Finley (Dianna Agron), may just never qualify for residency the way   Hannah does.

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