To look at Road to the Well, you wouldn’t guess it is a debut film, and certainly not an independent one made on a shoestring. A Kickstarter campaign helped writer and director Jon Cvack raise the finances for his intense thriller, and it proves that limited resources are no barrier to telling an engaging story or being able to film it with clarity and style.
Cvack’s ‘steady movie-per-day diet’ over the years has helped him create a film that wears its influences on its sleeve without becoming derivative. Impeccably shot by cinematographer Tim Davis, the glow of night-time Los Angeles is evocative of Nicholas Winding Refn’s work, and the film’s later transition to the majestic north-Californian landscape of Donner Lake recalls the rural neo-Westerns of the Coen brothers.
The plot is kept relatively simple. The life of middle-manager Frank (Laurence Fuller) is sent into turmoil after his old friend, a drifter named Jack (Micah Parker), returns to town. It’s clear from the start that Jack is keeping secrets, and as his mysterious past surfaces, Frank is caught in the middle. Violence ensues, and the pair soon find themselves fleeing to the country to make sure that their bloody secrets are kept.
What is slightly surprising is that Road to the Well is as much a character study as it is a genre film, a confident direction to take for a debut which markets itself as a thriller. Action is infrequent, meaning its impact is felt much harder when it does come, but it also places a lot more focus on the dialogue to move the film forward. Cvack’s script is well-written and overall his leads deliver it naturally. A long sequence where Laurence and Jack play a game of cat-and-mouse with a retired army chaplain would feel a little misplaced, but an intense, scene-stealing performance from Marshall R. Teague carries it through.
Road to the Well shows what can be achieved even with limited resources. It is cleanly edited and its soundtrack is well-balanced, full of delicate strings that swell with the tension. Overall, it has the production values of a film well beyond its means, a case where the talent and hard work of those in front of and behind the camera more than compensate for any financial limitations. There are a lot of mainstream films out there that could learn a thing or two from Jon Cvack and Road to the Well.
Country: USA Language: English Year: 2016 Director: Jon Cvack Writer: Jon Cvack Cinematographer: Tim Davis Starring: Micah Parker, Rosalie McIntire, Laurence Fuller Runtime: 108 minutes