SUNDANCE 2014: WILLIAM H. MACY SCORES HIGH MARKS WITH ‘RUDDERLESS’!

At first glance, William H. Macy’s feature directorial debut Rudderless had the makings of something slightly morbid as his protagonist who is grieving the death of his teenage son, unearths a box of original and unreleased music from his deceased son and forms a band, bringing these songs to life as he tries to put his own life back together.

RUDDERLESS

Billy Crudup slips into the skin of Sam, a divorced father whose college student son, is killed in an on-campus shooting. Sam’s life is shattered and he turns to the bottle for solace, leaving behind an advertising job and resurfacing two years on, living – more like – surviving on a sailboat, still swilling alcohol and getting by on house painting jobs.

Emily (Felicity Huffman), his ex-wife, finds him and gives him some of their son’s belongings including music recorded in a college dorm room by him. When Sam starts listening to the songs, he becomes hooked and feels a connection to his lost boy, learning to strum the songs on a guitar. Sam starts to play locally, noticed by a budding songwriter Quentin (Anton Yelchin), who begins to shadow the guarded Sam, hanging around his boat and eventually wearing him down. The two start to jam together, forming the band Rudderless, playing what they think are Sam’s songs and not those of his deceased son. Strumming guitar and singing with young artists that could have been Sam’s boy, provides perhaps some catharsis for Sam.

FELICITY HUFFMAN AND DIRECTOR WILLIAM H. MACY (IMG: GETTY)

Rudderless works on several fronts. Firstly, Macy balances the thickness and heaviness of Sam’s grief and descent with some levity and there is much needed balance achieved to get you through the tough tale. The film is small and large at the same time, with Macy occupying indie space without alienating the mainstream, leaving room for commercial legs for this film. Billy Crudup also shines as Sam, completely believable and clearly committed to the cause. The audience is brought into the emotional and spiritual struggle Sam wages daily to fill a void that is seemingly impossible to fill. You feel the pain, the give-up, the road to redemption which is achieved an inch at a time. And then there is the music – original songs by Simon Steadman and Charlton Pettus – that weave harmoniously through Rudderless.

Rudderless, with the kind of plot begging for a happy movie ending and tidy closure, gives instead the unexpected and a final effort by Crudup that brought the Sundance crowd their feet.

PHOTO BOOTH: BILLY CRUDUP, SELENA GOMEZ AND WILLIAM H. MACY (IMG: EONLINE.COM)

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