There is a palpable feeling of unease in the opening scenes of Gaby Dellal’s ‘Angels Crest’ as Ethan (Thomas Dekker) a young father, is loading his 3 year old son Nate into a pick up truck and driving him deep into the woods to watch the snow falling. Nate then falls asleep and Ethan spots a deer he wants to track. He leaves his son in the truck with the doors locked, the heat on and no prizes for guessing the earlier uneasiness is realized.
The scenes that follow depict Ethan’s utter helplessness as we wanders through the woods screaming the name of his son, and they can’t help but hit the viewer, as does the scene where the little boy’s body is found. The problem is that after this oh so promising start, Dellal loses control of the entire narrative and it descends into a maelstrom of teeth gnashing and wailing.
This isn’t helped by the underscore of miserable music and the incredible over acting, mainly by Dekker who seems to be afflicted by a whole range of tics and is uncomfortable to watch and Lynn Collins who plays the boys mother Cindy and the bouts of screeching she is prone to.
Of course people would get emotional in this kind of situation, and no, it wouldn’t be pretty but these scenes have no depth, and the only glimpse we get of any is when we see how different Cindy is on her way to woods that how she is when she gets there. This tantalizes us that there is some complexity to her character, but this is neither built upon or developed in any way.
It turns out that Angels Crest is not just Ethan and Cindy’s story however, and this is both a flaw and a virtue. Catherine Trieschmann is the screenwriter who worked from Leslie Shwartz’ novel, and she surrounds the couple with the other residents of the small, snowy town they live in.
These include Angie (Mira Sorvino) who is the proprietor of the diner, Ethan’s best friend who is sleeping with Cindy and the local DA who, apart from prosecuting Ethan has secrets of his own.
Whilst the color and the community that is provided courtesy of the supporting cast are valuable, this film is almost wrecked by the abundance of scenes with dead ends; they appear, plod along for a while then disappear again without going anywhere. This is demonstrated in the clumsy subplot involving Roxanne and Jane, and the lesbian couple trying to make it in a small town is far from intriguing and handles very heavy handedly.
This entire subplot seems to have been added simply to make up the running time and is totally pointless. The only actor who deserves any real plaudits is the ever reliable Sorvino, but the rest just muddle few. A good story has been ruined by undeveloped characters and subplots and this admittedly good looking film, like so many, fails to realize its initial potential.