By Don Simpson | January 14, 2015
Director: Sara Colangelo
Writer: Sara Colangelo
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas, Chloë Sevigny, Alexia Rasmussen, James DeForest Parker, Beau Wright, Travis Tope
After a coal mining catastrophe leaves ten men buried alive, the soul survivor — Amos (Boyd Holbrook) — becomes an unlikely town hero. It is very likely that Amos’ testimony will be the deal-breaker for a class action lawsuit that could shut down the coal mine entirely, thus severely paralyzing the economy of the small town in which he lives. With little interest in Amos’ recovery, the townspeople rally behind him to save their own jobs. Fortunately for Amos, he can use his foggy memory as an excuse to buy some time before he has to testify about the presumed accident.
All the while, Bill Doyle (Josh Lucas) — the manager of the coal mine (and scapegoat for the accident) — and his wife Diane (Elizabeth Banks) have lost their son JT (Travis Tope). While we know precisely what happened to JT, no one else has any idea about what happened. The prepubescent son of one of the deceased miners, Owen (Jacob Lofland), fatefully finds himself stuck in the middle of both of the town’s tragedies. The narrative effortlessly switches between Amos and Owen’s stories. As the loosely-defined “survivors” of the two “accidents,” they must carry the burden of trying to move on with their lives.
Writer-director Sara Colangelo’s Little Accidents discusses the severity of even the most innocent of accidents. Whether that accident kills one or ten, the aftermath is quite the same for both the “accidental” murderers and the families of the victims. Seemingly exponentially greater than an intended murder, the guilt of an “accidental” murder cripples the perpetrator just as much as the pain of loss suffered by the families of the victims.
In such a small town, these two cataclysmic events seem to send the majority of the population into a state of shock. It certainly does not help that the townspeople’s lives are so intertwined. Even the rigid class distinctions between the management and the miners are dissolved after such tragedies; and it is not without bitter irony that both “accidents” are rooted in the inherent class discrepancies of a mining town.
Little Accidents also contemplates the severity of secrets. Multiple characters have duplicitous lives, keeping deep dark secrets from those of whom they are supposed to be closest. Whether it is shredding incriminating documents, discarding a bloodied shirt, pretending to have forgotten an important event, or cheating on a spouse, the act of secrecy tears apart the lives of those respective characters; fear and guilt eat their souls.
With exquisitely emotional performances — especially by Jacob Lofland — Little Accidents revels in its sublimely realistic setting. Colangelo’s script never seems overtly planned; rather, it unravels quite naturally. By no means an easy film to swallow, Little Accidents is worth the moroseness that seems inseparable from the viewing experience.