Note: this film screened in competition at 2013’s Phoenix Film Festival and won multiple awards. The film is set for a limited release this Friday, April 25. Here’s an extended version of my review from last year.
As the title screen popped up ten minutes into the The Retrieval’s start, I was convinced of its potential. The film demonstrates that independent film can be just as moving, if not more so, than standard Hollywood fare so long as talent resides behind the screen. Eska commands with his direction, delivering a story that is equal parts coming-of-age tale, love story, and adventure all set during the Civil War. While that would normally ask for loud, large set pieces, this is a quiet, affecting film, observing a young boy as he works with his uncle to return a slave for money. They trick him, telling of his brother dying and him needing to visit, but they’re trying to make a living and doing what they need to. Almost every character in the film is a slave, making for a dynamic that works wonders; the commentary is slight and observant, but the characters are wholly realized and interact with immediacy and maturity (and the performances are assured and convincing). Symbolically and metaphorically the film is effective, as is the rewarding, emotional conclusion. At the time I saw the film, it held a resonance I hadn’t felt in months. It’s a prime example of minimalism making a film remarkable.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)