2014 / Director. Sara Colangelo.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Set in the aftermath of a coal mining disaster, which took the lives of ten workers, the possibilities for LITTLE ACCIDENTS to explore stories was limitless. The scene was set for a compelling industrial relations story (ala MATEWAN) or perhaps an examination of the emotional toll the event has had on the families (ala THE SWEET HEREAFTER). There are even moments when the film's atmosphere and tones reflect NORTH COUNTRY... instead the film uses the disaster as a backdrop while it turns its attention to an unrelated tragedy.
While the town is still dealing with its grief and industrial action is looming the son of a mining executive goes missing and the answers to his whereabouts lie with another boy, whose own father died in the recent mine collapse. As emotions run high and loyalties are tested, the characters lives intertwine in a story that cautiously builds up pressure, threatening to explode..... but never does.
This is a lacklustre film that ought to have soared, but languishes in a state of insecurity. All of the ingredients SHOULD have made it a compelling and provocative drama piece, but they fail to elevate the misguided and unsubstantial choice of storyline. The performances include Elizabeth Banks, Josh Lucas and Boyd Holbrook, Chloe Sevigny and young Jacob Lofland... all really damn good. The cinematography is also brilliant with the cold, wintery West Virginian landscape captured perfectly and the industrial aspect also represented well.
And so where did it all go wrong for LITTLE ACCIDENTS? Why did I come away from it feeling so underwhelmed? The answer may lie in its adaptation. The film is based on a short, which director Sara Colangelo made a few years prior, and I couldn't help but feel that this particular story would have been best left in short format. There is absolutely no question about Colangelo's technical abilities, because the film is accomplished in all other aspects... but LITTLE ACCIDENTS runs at 105 minutes and feels like two films mashed into one. Were it a simple story about a missing boy, then I would have responded well to it. And the same goes, had it been a single story about the mining disaster. But with its focus constantly competing with two storylines, none of the character-arches received the attention or respect that they deserve. Perhaps more accomplished director may have pulled it off.
With that said, Sara Colangelo is a filmmaker with massive potential, and the obvious talent to do amazing things. And despite my criticisms towards LITTLE ACCIDENTS, it remains an impressive debut feature-length film nonetheless.