I reviewed T.A. Manchester’s Bleed American for Cine-File Chicago ahead of its Chicago Premiere next week. I’m posting the review in its entirety below.
T.A. Manchester’s BLEED AMERICAN (New American)
Classic Cinemas (1022 Lake Street, Oak Park) – Thursday, 7pm
A film about disaffected youth in the tradition of Jonathan Kaplan’s OVER THE EDGE, Tim Hunter’s RIVER’S EDGE, and Larry Clark’s KIDS, but given a refreshingly Midwestern (specifically northern Indiana) Trump-era spin, T.A. Manchester’s impressive second feature as writer/director is as raw as an open wound. In a concise 75 minutes, Manchester follows a group of blue-collar teens living without parental guidance in trailers and drab apartments in a bleak stretch of the Rust Belt as they alternately attempt to forge meaningful emotional and sexual bonds with one another, goof off, party and, ultimately, just eke out a daily existence. The main focus is on Larson (Jarret Maier), a lanky, brooding young man who struggles to play a paternal role to his confused younger siblings, LJ (Austin Holloway) and Lex (Madison Wolters), in the wake of their mother’s chronic illness and father’s absence, and the film’s narrative aimlessness is an apt reflection of the characters’ rudderless lives. It’s an assured piece of filmmaking shot in a gritty, quasi-documentary style: Manchester and cinematographer Mario Quintana are especially resourceful using wide-angle lenses in cramped spaces, and one dialogue scene in a car is a virtuoso piece of mise en scene. There’s plenty of talent lurking in the ensemble cast too but the female characters are given short shrift by being defined primarily for how they stir feelings in male counterparts with considerably more screen time. This is regrettable since Elizabeth Stam and Emily Eruraviel are compelling performers who tend to steal the scenes they’re in; but BLEED AMERICAN is, on the whole, a potent American indie about youth today that marks Manchester as a filmmaker to watch. Manchester, producer John Matzler, cinematographer Mario Quintana, and several cast members in person. (2019, 75 min, DCP Digital) MGS