AFI Fest 2014: ‘Faults’ – Film Review

Faults starts out as a broad comedy, then gradually transitions into a tense thriller, before finally ending up as . . . something else. It’s hard to say what. Regardless, though, the film manages to be entertaining and compelling throughout.

Ansel (Leland Orser) was once an acclaimed psychologist who helped victims of cults break free and regain control over their own lives. Now, he’s washed up, down on his luck, and deep in debt to some rather dangerous people. Then, he gets an opportunity: some concerned parents (Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) want Ansel to help their daughter, Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), to break free of a cult called Faults. They’ve tried all the advice in his book and nothing has gotten through to her, but Ansel has one more idea: kidnap Claire and deprogram her.

After hiring two men to grab her out of a parking lot and shove her into the back of a van, Ansel takes Claire to a remote motel, where the two of them talk about Claire’s life and what she’s become. Ansel is determined to get through to her, but Claire is determined, as well. What is Faults, exactly? Would Claire’s life really be better back with her parents?

This movie shifts gears—and genres—a number of times throughout the course of the film. Writer/director Riley Stearns makes the transitions completely seamless, though. In fact, you hardly notice the change until you’re already caught up in a new set of circumstances, with a markedly different tone. The whole thing is done on a very low budget, and it’s usually very subdued, but still packs quite a punch.

What really makes this film good, though, is the performances. Ansel is a broken man, in way over his head, and Orser effortlessly plays him as alternately unlikeable, sympathetic, funny, serious, knowledgeable, and pathetic, depending on the scene. Winstead is calm and cool, very sweet, but also calculating. And, Ellis is fantastic as Claire’s father, for reasons that you should probably just watch for yourself. Also of note is Lance Reddick as Mick, the man tasked with collecting the money that Ansel owes. His voice never rises above a normal volume, he never utters a single threat directly, and yet he manages to be frightening and intimidating in all the right ways.

All in all, this is a fun and entertaining movie. It’s largely contained in a few simple locations, but, emotionally, it will take you all over the map. In the hands of director Stearns, though, it’s definitely a journey worth taking.

Last modified on Friday, 28 December 2018 19:18

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