OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Don Simpson | February 6, 2011
Director: Thomas L. Phillips
Writers: Thomas L. Phillips, Melanie Lynn Addington
Starring: Lance E. Nichols,Candice Barley, T. Lynn Mikeska, Bo Keister, Elizabeth Connelly, Cindy Hogan, Johnny McPhail, Susan McPhail, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Rob Myers, Blake Buck, Daniel Lee, Carlisle Forrester
Jacob (Alex Walters) has been gone for a decade, but he has finally decided to return to his hometown. Some things have changed — for one, he can no longer smoke in Patrick’s (Lance E. Nichols) restaurant because City Hall has taken to telling businesses what to do. (Ah, once again, smoking is used to represent individual freedom.) One thing has not changed, people have not forgotten what they believe Jacob did ten years ago; as Jacob explains, this is a place where “rumors are truths, accusations are facts.” Heck, even his own mother (Cindy Hogan) believes that he is guilty.
Whatever horrible and unforgettable thing Jacob did ten years ago, it personally affected his best friend at the time, Tyler (Bo Keister), the most. The token bad guy of the film, the oafish Tyler is out for Jacob’s blood. This is a small town where everybody knows everybody else, so we know that Jacob is not going to be able to hide for very long. We are not sure why exactly Jacob returned, but from the moment he arrives it seems like a very bad decision.
Other than Patrick, who seems to be the only rational person in town, Jacob is befriended by Haddy (Candice Michele Barley) — the only person who seems to not know what Jacob did (we are told that she was too young to understand).
Where I Begin is about rumors and accusations, truths and half-truths. When is history true and when is it in the eyes of the beholder? What did Jacob do? To quote Tyler’s sister, Kristen (Elizabeth Connelly): “Who knows any more, but more importantly who gives a shit?!” We never learn whether or not Jacob is truly guilty; but even if he is, Jacob is able to persuade us that he really is a good person now. That right there is what I like most about Where I Begin, its openness to the possibility of forgiveness. Tyler’s desire for violent revenge is portrayed as completely ridiculous, while the good people of Where I Begin are those who are willing to accept Jacob for who he is today, no matter what he did ten years ago.
Besides a handful of scenes that are a bit too stunted for my tastes, the acting in Where I Begin is quite good. Though, for me, it is the locations that really sell the film. This is truly a town that has been ravaged by the economic bust of 2008. Unemployment and foreclosures have cleared out many of the towns’ inhabitants, leaving behind an empty shell, or better yet a modern ghost town. Upon seeing the images of the town, we understand exactly why the townspeople have held onto the past, because they have nothing in the present to distract them.