In many ways, This Is Martin Bonner is a perfect representation of a "Sundance movie."
It's a subtle character study, featuring a cast of unknowns, and will never be a Megaplex popcorn flick. Those are all positives--but the fact is, not enough actually happens to the characters in director Chad Hartigan's second feature film to make This Is Martin Bonner worth recommending.
The story, such as it is, tracks one Martin Bonner (played by Paul Eenhoorn), a divorced Australian ex-pat who just moved from Maryland to Reno, the only place he could find a job. And it's not much of a job at that; Bonner works for a Christian organization helping recent parolees re-enter the world outside of prison. It's in that role that he meets Travis (Richmond Arquette), just released from 12 years behind bars for a drunk-driving manslaughter case.
Both men are new to Reno, and form a believable friendship through their respective trials in the city. For Bonner, that includes speed-dating nights organized by his faraway daughter. And for Travis, it's working a boring job as a parking lot attendant and trying to reestablish a relationship with his daughter in Arizona.
Both Eenhoorn and Arquette offer strong performances, and there's some pleasure to be had watching their friendship development over the course of the film. And while I can appreciate that the film isn't trying to make any huge statements about issues that seem open to just that--Christian forgiveness, the U.S. penal system, father-daughter relations--there's just not enough drama taken on to make the movie's end feel satisfying.
Instead, when This Is Martin Bonner finishes, the audience is left wondering--what was the point?
Jan. 22, 3:30 p.m., Redstone Theater, Park City
Jan. 25, 5:30 p.m., The Marc, Park City
Jan. 26, Noon, Broadway Centre Theater, Salt Lake City