Synopsis: A Californian teenager’s plan to come out at his Nebraskan family reunion gets derailed when a bloodstain on his young cousin’s dress makes him the unwitting suspect of abuse.
Release Date: April 22, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
A couple of years ago, there was a great documentary about the Memphis music scene called Take Me to the River. If anyone who is looking for that movie accidentally stumbles across this Take Me to the River, they’re going to be a little confused, and a lot surprised.
Take Me to the River is about a young California man named Ryder (Logan Miller from +1) who is on his way to a family reunion in Nebraska with his parents (played by Robin Weigert from The Sessions and Richard Schiff from “The West Wing”). The homosexual Ryder wants to use the reunion as an opportunity to come out to his family, but his parents are afraid that it will make the Middle Americans uncomfortable, so they talk him into just enjoying the picnic. Once they arrive at the reunion, Ryder becomes the subject of ridicule, with people making fun of his shorts and sunglasses, thinking that he is a “weird Californian.” Things only get worse for Ryder when he goes off to explore a barn with his little cousin Molly (Ursula Parker from “Louie”) and she ends up screaming with a bloody spot on her dress. Molly’s father, Keith (Josh Hamilton from Dark Skies), is furious at Ryder, thinking that he assaulted the girl. No one will listen to Ryder’s side of the story, and Molly is too scared to talk, so the entire family believes that Ryder is a pedophile and a pervert.
As you can probably tell from that synopsis, Take Me to the River is a very grim and uncomfortable movie. The debut feature film from writer/director Matt Sobel isn’t outwardly controversial, but there’s an underlying theme of toil and trouble that exists almost from the very first frame – the viewer knows that things are going to go bad from Ryder’s first conversation with his parents on the car ride out, but they have no idea how bad. The audience can feel how awkward the reunion is going to be well before it actually begins, and they can’t wait to get there and see it.
At its root, Take Me to the River is a coming of age story, both for Ryder and for Molly, but it’s also a story about guilt and innocence and how both can be misdirected and misunderstood. The film is full of shocking revelations and stunning twists, so there’s not a whole lot more that should be said about it in a forum like this. But if you’re going to check out Take Me to the River, be prepared – it’s a disturbing and unsettling movie, the kind that will make you want to take a shower after you see it. And there’s nothing about Stax Records in it anywhere.
The idea for Take Me to the River came to Matt Sobel after he had a dream in which he was accused of doing something and, no matter how hard he tried to protest and prove his innocence, he couldn’t convince anyone that he didn’t do it. He does a great job at capturing that feeling of frustration and helplessness and channeling it into the character of Ryder. Using his own family’s farm in Nebraska for a location (another aspect of the film that is autobiographical – the director actually went to reunions like the one he shows), Sobel juxtaposes Ryder’s red short-shorts and Hollywood sunglasses against the drab and dull scenery to emphasize the fact that Ryder is, in fact, a complete outsider and not to be trusted Right from the get-go, Ryder’s extended family thinks that he’s weird, so there’s little doubt in their collective mind that he would be capable of doing everything that they’re accusing him of doing.
And speaking of doubt, another masterful decision that Sobel makes is to not show the audience what actually happens in the barn that results in Molly being bloodied and upset, purposely keeping the event, and therefore the blame, ambiguous. The audience is forced to fill in the gaps and decide for themselves if they trust Ryder enough to believe that he is innocent. Of course, he’s likeable enough as the hero of the story, but with the shadow of doubt hanging over his head, the audience finds itself questioning him. Sobel basically makes everyone in Take Me to the River a suspect, including his protagonist, until he shows his hand at precisely the right moment. And it’s genius.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Matt Sobel
- Producer(s): Matt Sobel
- Screenwriter(s): Matt Sobel
- Cast: Logan Miller (Ryder)Robin Weigert (Cindy)Richard Schiff (Don) Ursula Parker (Molly)Josh Hamilton (Keith)Azura Skye (Ruth)Ashley Gerasimovich (Abbey)Elizabeth Franz (Evelyn)Seth Young (Trenton)Amy Hostetler (Terry)
- Editor(s): Jacob Secher Schulsinger
- Cinematographer: Thomas Scott Stanton
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Rebecca Luke
- Casting Director(s): Sig De MiguelStephen Vincent
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA