2007 // USA // Blake Eckard // November 17, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Tivoli Theater)
Blake Eckard's tale of eroding relationships and morality--and not-quite-redemption--in the ossified small-town landscape of northwestern Missouri never quite achieves the searing strength that the director hopes for. Perhaps that's because Sinner Come Home is most potent in its quiet moments, as Eckard's characters, particularly his protagonist Eddie (Ryan Harper Gray), suss out the pivotal conflicts in their lives in elliptical, beer-soaked mumblings. Eckard evokes Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories or even Killer of Sheep in his keen awareness of the everyday indignities suffered by Americans who dwell outside the ramparts of suburban ease. Sinner Come Home, however, is no neo-realist snapshot, no matter how natural its rhythms. No, what Eckard delivers is gaping melodrama, complete with unfortunate dips into wincing dialog and a tragedy that comes out of left field. The stiff, self-conscious acting of many of the performers breaks the film's authentic spell and betrays the creakiness of a film-maker still developing his talents. Still, for all its telltale seams, Sinner Come Home offers a bold examination of the perils of rural life, absent populist mythologizing or condescension. Insightfully and without judgment, Eckard perceives the poison in the sheer boredom and dissatisfaction of a small-town existence.