by Andrew T. Betzer
2014, 102 min, 16mm-to-digital
NEW YORK THEATRICAL PREMIERE RUN!
Andrew Betzer’s acclaimed, instantly identifiable short films, including SMALL APARTMENTS (Grand Jury Prize winner at SXSW) and JOHN WAYNE HATED HORSES, have consistently defied viewer expectations with their dark humor, disarming poignancy, and total disregard for happy endings. YOUNG BODIES HEAL QUICKLY marks Betzer’s notable debut as a feature filmmaker, and solidly delivers on his early promise.
Older (Gabriel Croft), a young man of 20 years, escapes incarceration and seeks out his little brother, Younger, age 10 (Hale Lytle). Clearly a bad influence, Older gets them involved in the ‘accidental’ killing of a young girl and makes things worse by fleeing the scene of the crime. They hide out until their mother can come to help, but rather than turn them over to the police, she aids in their escape. On the road, they have a series of run-ins with estranged family and unusual characters, all of whom remind them just how out-on-a-limb things have become for the ill-prepared duo. Upon their arrival at their estranged father’s desolate compound on the seashore, tensions boil over when Dad forces Older and Younger to join him and his military-loving buddies on their annual trip to a remote forest to reenact the Vietnam War.
With minimal dialogue and an episodic approach, YOUNG BODIES HEAL QUICKLY is a slippery film that manages to be completely engrossing and at the same time thoroughly unpredictable. Driven by compelling performances from the young leads and actress Kate Lyn Sheil (LISTEN UP PHILIP, THE COLOR WHEEL), as well as distinctive camerawork by Sean Price Williams, the film is less a coming-of-age tale than a mystifying parable about familial bonds and the substantial costs paid for youthful mistakes.
“Most movies that begin with a sudden tragic event telegraph the consequences far ahead. Not this captivating debut, in which two fugitive brothers – the older one a seemingly stunted brute, the younger one a resilient waif – meander through a series of strange encounters en route to a reunion with their long-lost father, a war-reenactment obsessive. Beautiful 16mm cinematography savors both landscape and the intimacies of willful characters who slowly reveal their mysteries.” –Steve Dollar, WALL STREET JOURNAL