Dances With Films 2015: ‘Echo Lake’ – Film Review

I rather enjoyed Echo Lake, which has me a bit worried. The film, which screened at Dances With Films earlier this week, was explained to me as having an unlikable protagonist, and without a happy ending. Well, I rather liked and, furthermore, identified with, the protagonist. And, though the ending isn’t exactly tied up with a ribbon and bows, I found it happy in its own small way, or at least satisfying.

Will Baxter (Sam Zvibleman) is a bit irresponsible and something of a slacker. He drinks too much, or at least too often, and neglects his girlfriend in favor of hanging out with his drinking, slacker friends. He’s flawed, certainly, but he’s a good guy at heart, and I couldn’t help but like him.

After one too many late nights out drinking with the boys, Will’s girlfriend has finally had enough of his shenanigans and throws him out of their apartment. To pile even more onto Will’s already complicated life, his estranged, alcoholic father dies, leaving Will his cabin on Echo Lake. With nowhere else to go, Will heads there with the intention of looking the place over before selling it. Along the way, he reluctantly befriends, then bonds with, a dog, and meets some people who are camping nearby.

Perhaps this description sounds mundane, but the film is actually quite good. It starts off a bit slow, but you become more and more invested in it as it goes on. Amid all the things life is hurling at Will, he finds himself on some sort of road to redemption. When we leave him at the end of the film, he’s still on that road, nowhere near the end—but he’s making progress. And, the journey is one worth taking.

Writer/director Jody McVeigh-Schultz has crafted a pretty good film. It’s small, quiet, and unusual, but it has heart, which is the key to everything. Based on the press notes for this film, which describe it as, among other things, a “rebellious reaction to happy endings,” I’m not sure if he’s quite accomplished what he was aiming for. But, it’s a good film, and a film worth watching. And, in the end, that’s what really matters.

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