DVD Review - Beside Still Waters

Ryan Eggold (left) and Beck Bennett
in a scene from 'Beside Still Waters'
Chris Lowell makes his directorial debut and his work shows potential, but frankly this film is too short and there's a deficit in its accomplishing of any goals. Unless this was just an exercise or an excuse for Lowell to hang out with a bunch of hip, young actors, there's not much of a point here. It puts a lot of things on the table and just leave them there without touching them. Lowell introduces us to eight people, and if he meant for us to understand and/or like them by the end, then he failed.

Ryan Eggold (90210 and The Blacklist) stars as Daniel, a guy who has to sell his parents' lake house after they died in a car accident. He invites his childhood friends up to spend the weekend there for one last time. There's a bit of drama because apparently none of these friends attended his parents' funeral. It's also suggested that none of them have even been to that house since high school. There's a bit more drama when Daniel's ex-girlfriend shows up with her fiancé.

Now, the problem is that this premise presents a lot of questions that Lowell seems uninterested or incapable of answering. The first question is how great or close are these friends if none of them attended the funeral. What are the relationships like between Daniel and these friends, meaning how often do they speak and how often do they hang out prior to this? The assumption is that the friends are all estranged. If that's the case, there's not enough here to convince that the estrangement is over past the closing credits.

Another question concerns Daniel's ex-girlfriend Olivia, played by Britt Lower. She says that she didn't feel the need to attend the funeral because they broke up years ago, so why does she feel the need to attend this weekend? More specifically, why did Daniel and Olivia break up in the first place? It's suggested later that Olivia is a habitual cheater, so did that play a part in Daniel and Olivia's separation? Daniel claims she's the one, so what has he done in the interim? Has he just been pining over her or what?

Again, Lowell has no interest or any ability to answer these questions and fill out these characterizations. It makes it difficult to understand why any of these people are doing what they're doing. This is indicative of how Lowell treats all of the other characters though. The first two friends who arrive to the lake house are Daniel's two gay friends.

Beck Bennett (Saturday Night Live and Arrested Development) plays Tom who was recently fired from his father's law firm and it seems rightfully so. Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) plays James, a hunky actor who has taken a job on a reality show. Tom is openly gay, while James remains in the closet. However, James has sex with Tom and later denies it, and all I could do was scratch my head and ask why. I also ask what's the point of this and what's to become of it. This relationship and these two are put on the table and again just left there without being touched.

The second pair of friends is a married couple. Erin Darke plays Abby, a young woman married to Martin, played by Will Brill. Abby is upset at Martin because he's unemployed. She also says they haven't had sex in three months. She hints that Martin's unemployment is connected to their lack of sex. Instead of addressing this issue and what caused this 3-month spell, Lowell adds a weird wrinkle on top of it that sucks the oxygen out of the room, and that's anal sex.

Lowell does craft a very funny sequence where he cross-cuts between three parallel scenes in a clever fashion. One scene is with the straight guys. One is with the gay guys and the other is with the girls. He cross-cuts between seven people in three different locations and has them seem like they're all talking about the same thing, doubling up on lines of dialogue for comedic effect. It's a great sequence and nothing else ever matches this one sign of greatness in the movie.

What sinks things is that none of the characters are particularly likeable. Daniel is especially atrocious. Yes, his parents died, which is supposed to make him sympathetic, but even that is not enough to save the character from being written off by the audience. It's also particularly noticeable that this circle of friends has no one person of color among them, and the whiskey slap game was just juvenile.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 17 mins.


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