AFF: 'Strings'

Locally-lensed relationship drama ramps up the sense of brooding

AFF: 'Strings'

Rich in atmosphere and a brooding sense of things sliding inexorably out of control (nicely mirroring the current global zeitgeist) this locally lensed thriller tackles enough heavy metaphors to sink half a dozen studio flicks but is buoyed again and again by a brace of standout performances and some gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Mike Simpson.

Co-directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster (working from a complexly layered script by Dennis) tackle issues of loss, redemption, and why its best to steer clear of ominous British psychotherapists (emphasis on psycho) no matter how messed up your mind is or how shattered your soul may feel.

The titular ties that bind, familial and otherwise, are at the heart of Strings narrative, which follows the misfortunes of Billy (Billy Harvey), a young man expecting his first daughter with girlfriend Chavine (Elle Lamont). The blessed event goes unpredictably south, leaving Billy something of a basket case, which leads in turn to his seeking professional help, and from there to the waterlogged stink of cordite and bloodshed. And from there? Strings operates best the less you know going in, but suffice to say the narrative switchbacks are less confusing on screen than they are in print.

Standout performances from Austin School of Film alum Karl Anderson, Chris Potter, and Harvey keep the film rooted in the here and now even when the action on screen takes a decidedly noirish sci-fi bent. Peopled with Austin actors (Gary Chason shows in a small role) and shot all over town, Strings' ambition sometimes exceeds itself but it's nevertheless an impressive debut from directors Dennis and Foster.

Austin Film Festival presents Strings: Tues. Oct 25, 7pm, Rollins Theater.

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AFF, Strings, Ben Foster, Mark Dennis

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