LA Film Fest 2013
By Don Simpson | June 17, 2013
Directors: Robert Machoian, Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck
Writer: Robert Machoian
Starring: Bruce Graham, Robert Eddington, Chelsea Word, Matt Valdez, Rebekah Mott, Elizabeth Overton, Wyatt Eddington, Suzette Graham
When Bruce (Bruce Graham) returns home from his morning jogging regimen, the very last thing that he expects to see is his wife Suzette (Suzette Graham) dead on their bedroom floor. Considering the shock that weighs heavily upon Bruce’s face, we can only assume that Suzette’s death was totally unexpected. Being that the film begins with Suzette’s death, we never get to experience the two characters interacting with each other; and instead of relying upon flashbacks to explain Bruce and Suzette’s past, Forty Years from Yesterday allows Bruce’s intense state of grief to speak for itself. Barely able to pick his feet up off the floor as he walks, this version of Bruce is drastically different than the one who was jogging at the onset of the film. As we watch Bruce mope aimlessly around the quiet house, we begin to imagine just how much this man loved his wife.
All the while, we also observe as Robert (Robert Eddington) and his two assistants — Lowell (Matt Valdez) and Lawson (Wyatt Eddington) — extract Suzette from Bruce’s home and prepare her for the funeral. Everything they do is calculated and regimented, reminding us of the professional side of death. Dealing with death, day after day, Robert’s detached and emotionless persona is a necessary protection for his career. So whereas Bruce’s half of the narrative is dripping with raw emotion, Robert’s half of the narrative is coldly clinical.
Forty Years from Yesterday is a gorgeously minimalist meditation on the moods and tones experienced shortly after a loved one’s death. We observe the characters — all of whom are non-actors — as if they are subjects of a cinema verite documentary. Since Bruce internalizes most of his feelings and reactions, conversation is kept to a bare minimum. Alexander Sablow’s camera allows every line and pore on Bruce’s face to function as a roadmap for his feelings as well as his personal history. Bruce Graham handles with surprising skill and fortitude the burden of having to carry much of the narrative solely with his face.
Bruce’s house plays just as major of a dramatic role as the people who walk within it. Just prior to Suzette’s death, the house appears to be a living and breathing organism; the blowing curtains of the bedroom give shape to the air (and life) as it passes in and out of the house. Then, as we acclimate to the interiors of the the house, it begins to function (quite subtly, I might add) as a museum of memories, filled with reminders of Suzette’s life in that space.
Forty Years from Yesterday operates in sharp opposition to Hollywood films about death; there is no soundtrack to trigger our emotions, nothing is over-explained or over-sentimentalized. Directors Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck have quite purposefully made a film that may not be enjoyable in the traditional sense, there is no comedy or light-heartedness to ease the heartache, but that is only because they are striving to achieve a greater level of realism. Regardless, Forty Years from Yesterday is a transcendental experience that plays to the inherent — yet, woefully underused — strengths of the cinematic medium.