Film Festivals

Tribeca 2018: Back Roads Review

This will be the first of several reviews from this year’s Tribeca film Festival. To follow our coverage, click here.

Synopsis: Harley Altmeyer has to care for his three sisters after his mother is placed in jail for killing his abusive father. Living in the coal town of Laurel Falls in the backwoods of Western Pennsylvania, Harley lusts after a mother of two who lives down the road. Harley’s life is further complicated when he becomes the lead suspect in a local murder mystery. (IMDB)

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Jennifer Morrison, and Nicola Peltz

Writer: Adrian Lyne

Director: Alex Pettyfer

Rating: n/a

Running Time: 106mins

Trailer: n/a

There was a lot going on here so it was a shame that the story takes a long time to get going. After his mother Bonnie (Juliette Lewis) is sent to jail after killing his father, Harley Altmeyer (Pettyfer) is forced to take care of his three sisters, Amber (Peltz), Misty (Chiara Aurelia), and Jody (Hala Finley). While Harley struggled to take care of his younger siblings, he fell for one of his neighbors, a married woman named Callie (Morrison). 

This was okay despite not going anywhere but the film got better once it addressed each family member’s  deep seated trauma they experienced at the hands of their father and from the mystery behind his death. Though we never see him, it’s clear that he wasn’t a nice guy and that he had a profound effect on his family in some disturbing ways thus explaining their contentious dynamic. Harley was the most interesting character, however, the film didn’t go far enough with any of the characters.

In his directorial debut, Pettyfer proves that he is a more than competent director while delivering a strong performance as Harley. Harley can only remain stoic for so long as he had to repress his own trauma at the expense of taking care of his siblings. His powerful breakdown showed great range and control. He had good chemistry with Morrison who delivered a solid performance of her own. The sisters were good as well but Peltz’s Amber came off as annoying more often than not.

Overall, this was a disturbingly powerful, albeit uneven, family drama that takes too long to get going. Alex Pettyfer’s directorial debut was a solid one and he did not disappoint on either side of the camera.

Score: 7.5/10

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