P.T. Philben ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Emertainment monthly had the opportunity to speak to star, co-producer and co-writer Sam Trammell (know best as Sam Merlotte on HBO’s True Blood) at the world premiere of his new film All Mistakes Buried. One of the things that stood out the most about his comments was how the film was made. He came up with the idea himself with a few friends and they filmed the whole thing in Alexandria, Louisiana, a town that Trammel and director Tim McCann once called home. Many of the cast members besides Trammel and the other members of the primary cast are locals with no acting experience. It’s already quite apparent that this movie was studio backed, but the fact that it was made for less than $200,000 is impressive even if the film is merely mediocre. Emertainment can be among the first to report that this small film should be on everyone’s radar.
The story begins with Sonny (Trammel) trying to make amends with his estranged (not divorced) wife on the eve of their anniversary. Since his wife left, Sonny has fallen into a soul crushing downward spiral that has reduced a once very successful and respectable man into little more than a man-child trailer park junky. Hopelessly and visibly addicted to drugs, it is apparent from the beginning that making amends with his wife (the actual falling out is explained later in the film). But then, after he backs out of an arrangement he had with a prostitute, an enforcer takes the necklace he had planned to give back to his wife the next day as collateral. Sonny is now compelled to get it back and a journey that is structurally comparable to the missions of a greek hero (with the tone of a Shakespearean tragedy) begins.
The acting is superb across the board which is impressive in some parts but downright astonishing. Sam Trammell won awards in acting for his last film to premiere at the festival (White Rabbit) and the festival organizers present agreed. It seems hard to argue that Mr. Trammel has topped himself. It is extremely difficult for an actor to play a drug addict on the surface level, but Mr. Trammel takes it farther than that. Sonny is a man who has known the good life as a competent member of society but after a falling out with the woman he loved, that is no longer the case. Sonny, when we first meet him, looks like a beggar and acts like an ignorant teenager who just dropped out of high school. It’s such a compelling transformation because you believe it. The suffering the character is going through is visible in Trammels eyes, body language, and he still can convey the motivation to get back his wife’s necklace from the criminals.
The principle supporting cast is also fantastic. Sonny’s wife (Missy Yager, who is Trammels real life-partner of over 10 years) is a standout. She appears mostly in flashbacks meant to explain the backstory and these scenes between a pre-addict Sonny and his wife Jennifer are exceptionally compelling and heartbreaking. Particularly for those in the audience who know what it’s like to lose a longtime partner through arguments, misunderstanding or just plain losing touch. It hit close to home for the audience and Trammel admitted himself that the scenes were hard for him. The art was well worth the effort. Another stand out is Vanessa Ferlito who has a crime boss femme fatale role that she owns. She is in many ways the backbone of the conflict and she nails each scene.
All actors who played small roles hit it out of the park, with particular praise going to locals with no acting experience. Trammel had said after the screening that “you cannot cast these people” and he’s right. You can tell that the people are from the rural south and it adds so much authenticity to have these individuals in small but prominent roles. The film as a whole feels a lot like the first season of True Detective, which is also set in Louisiana, in that the environment plays as prominent a role in the making of the film as the actors or writers, almost as if the town itself is the fourth principle character. The filmmakers knowledge of the area as well as the contributions of the locals adds an invaluable level of authenticity.
Perhaps the biggest standout besides Trammels writing and acting work is the editing. Throughout the film, flashbacks are interwoven into the story as it plays out, giving a slow and intriguing reveal to the audience of our hero’s tragic back story. Trammell told Emertainment Monthly that this was not always the case. In fact, the entirety of the flashback scenes was originally cut in such a way as to basically serve as the second act. But then Trammell and his team got Chris Kursel, a relative newcomer to the industry, to completely overhaul the film and he came up with something that one can only sum up as a masterfully crafted structured slow burn. For those who follow talent on the cutting room floor, he’s one to watch. Without giving too much away, it’s something quite provocative by the end.
Negatives? It’s a tad slow and certainly not for the feint of heart. It’s also not for anyone looking for something uplifting. Other than that, everything from the directing, to the cinematography, on camera and off is either good or previously established as great. This is one that more people should be talking about, especially for the underappreciated artist by the name of Sam Trammell.
Overall Grade: A-