SXSW FILM 2014
By Don Simpson | March 22, 2014
Director: Matt Rabinowitz
Writers: Matt Rabinowitz, Carlos Colunga
Starring: Max Gail, Coleman Kelly, Anastassia Sendyk, Katherine Cortez, Oliver Seitz
Tennessee (Coleman Kelly) is working on a ranch, enjoying his relative seclusion, when he receives a letter from his father (Max Gail). Having been estranged from his father for several years, the letter tugs at Tennessee’s guilty conscience, prompting him to visit his aging father.
A retired literature professor, Tennessee’s father has just hired Nina (Anastassia Sendyk) to edit his memoirs while living in his house. Tennessee’s father does not seem to have any ulterior motives, he enlists the beautiful young Russian woman to live with him because he is in desperate need of companionship; besides, he realizes that his internal clock is ticking and time is running out to complete his memoirs.
It takes a while for Tennessee and his father to commence any sort of real dialog with each other. Neither of them has recovered from their pasts. Rather than listening to each other, they only know how to talk louder. Eventually, Tennessee finds it much easier to just avoid his father by keeping busy with random house repairs.
Writer-director Matt Rabinowitz’s The Frontier is an intriguing study of how communication — or lack thereof — affects interpersonal relationships. Focusing on the importance of respecting both sides of the conversation, the moral of Rabinowitz’s story is that listening is just as important as being able to express oneself. The Frontier uses the context of a familiar — specifically father-son — relationship, in which two people are genetically bound together, despite fervently disagreeing with each other’s opinions or lifestyles.
Told in a rapidly paced 84-minutes, The Frontier‘s thoughtful psychoanalysis of the human condition might have benefited from a more prolonged running time. Anxious to get directly to the crux of the narrative, the few minutes dedicated to the time before Nina and Tennessee arrive at the house is not nearly enough to set up the individual characters or give credence to their actions. Rabinowitz’s film feels like a film that has been condensed down to its most dramatic moments. With little recognition of the passage of time, we are given the impression that most of The Frontier takes place within a couple of days. The narrative structure lends The Frontier the air of a one-act play, with three characters in predominantly one location; however, it seems this story could have been better served by a more pensive and mood-driven pacing. Regardless, every time that Max Gail and Coleman Kelly face-off, lightning does strike; so the directorial desire to cull the film down to these key moments does make sense.