view_from_tall_2Year: 2016
Director(s): Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss
Writer(s): Caitlin Parrish
Region of Origin: US
Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 87 mins

Synopsis: 17 year-old Justine is having the worst year of her life, when she finds an unlikely lifeline in her disabled therapist. (Source)

When did we become so insensitive to one another? The View from Tall, boldly directed by Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss is a film that can’t be, and shouldn’t be ignored, confronting head-on a judgmental society that would rather judge and ostracize than react with compassion or understanding. Instead of condoning or condemning the taboo relationships at its core, it’s a powerful conversation piece about how judging and victimizing a woman has become the norm, stripping away her agency and shaping her narrative into something that’s easily containable or classifiable. The film also stands as a beautiful study of personal isolation, loneliness and the spaces in which two people can find common ground, giving us a rarely seen perspective on the coming-of-age drama. Led by knockout performances by Amanda Drinkall and Michael Patrick Thornton, this is a no-frills drama that bravely forgoes gimmicks and stays refreshingly centered on the humanity of its marginalized characters.

The film dives headfirst, throwing us into the aftermath of an unknown event that’s turned high school student Justine (Amanda Drinkall) into a pariah. Looked upon in shame by her parents, classmates and sister, she keeps herself firmly hidden between two oversized headphones, which even then, can’t prevent the physical and psychological abuse thrown onto her by her peers. As it turns out, news of a sexual relationship between her and a teacher (who has since absconded from town) has become public, leaving Justine to confront a myriad of internal struggles all on her own. Things get even trickier when a mandated therapist named Doug (Michael Patrick Thornton) comes into the picture, himself struggling with his own demons (and learning to accept his physical disabilities), leading the two to form a tenuous bond. As they slowly let the other in, they come to discover a type of loneliness that only they can understand. 

From the inescapable first frame, Parrish and Weiss construct a tale of that forces us to reexamine the status quo, and how nothing, especially when it comes to the sexual freedom of a woman and her body, is as black-and-white as it seems. Coming from a place of empathy, the film turns the tables on typically disagreeable choices, painting an intimate portrait of two kindred spirits that connect because of a world that’s unfairly defined them. Suddenly, the lines between adolescence and maturity and lust and friendship are inextricable, making us feel the power of finding someone willing to completely go out of their way to understand and bear our trials with us. Through this lens, the world of slut-shaming, hushed whispers and a climate of debasement (which goes on every day at an alarming rate) feels like an alien and cruel construct, something that shouldn’t ever be okay. It’s this frank and painfully candid exploration of the duality behind every story and person where film thrives and takes a deep hold.

view_from_tall_1It isn’t a stretch to say that the two performances at the film’s center are fearless and give the film it’s unforeseen depth. As Justine, Amanda Drinkall is tremendous as the precocious Justine. Wracked with an unbearable amount of tension and inner turmoil, Drinkall creates an empathetic character who we want to see succeed and come out victorious in the end. Of course, the film isn’t about an easy conclusion, but by its end, we totally understand and care for what happens next, thanks to her sincerity and warmth despite an uncertain future and questionable choices. As Doug, Michael Patrick Thornton is a beautifully fractured, well-meaning spirit who gives the film his all. There’s both a pain and strength through his patient, kind delivery, and a genuine sense of affection that breaks through his internal suffering. Both performers are stunning, treading the film’s tricky subject matter with a naturalism which earns the emotion behind every multi-faceted scene. Carolyn Braver’s Paula (Justine’s sister) gets a few moments to shine as well, displaying a very realistic love-hate relationship with her sister that is self-deprecating, at times tumultuous but also full of tenderness.

The View from Tall is as full of grace as it is a terrifying look at the world we live in. By it’s very nature the film feels like a necessary combatant of the toxic culture that plagues us and latches on like a stain, giving us lots to think about without piling on easy answers. Throwing in moments of charm, and even using humor to accentuate warmth and human frailty, the film takes its decidedly difficult subject matter and gives it the thought, discussion and intricate sensitivity it deserves.