Friday, October 2, 2009


AGAINST THE CURRENT, written and directed by Peter Callahan, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. As most filmmakers already know, the audience there is an eclectic sampling of demographics representing Sudance festival lovers while the recent screening at the Woodstock Film Festival has the hometown crowd welcoming the hometown filmmaker son of the Hudson Valley.

The film's premise sets the tone where the main character, Paul (Joseph Fiennes) is still grieving after five years over the loss of his wife and unborn child. A date is marked on the calendar in memory of that fateful day and plans are set into motion to swim the length of the Hudson River starting from Troy all the way to the Verazzano Bridge where the ocean begins. He enlists his best friend, Jeff (Justin Kirk), a wisecracking actor/bartender who invites Liz (Elizabeth Reaser) to come along on the boat that will escort Paul on his mission. During the first leg of the swim, Paul reminds Jeff of his promise five years earlier and Liz gets the story from Jeff on Paul's plan to commit suicide. From that point, Liz tries to change Paul's mind and despite the stopover at her mother's (superbly played by Mary Tyler Moore) with other eccentric family members and a night together, Paul's course and destiny is apparently set.

Justin Kirk (WEEDS) and Elizabeth Reaser still have the onscreen chemistry first seen in PUCCINI FOR BEGINNERS and, as the supporting cast, their banter moves the film along with the swimmer. Mary Tyler Moore's character, an exggerated, blissfully ignorant suburbabite living in her own glossed-over bubble, is reminiscent of the mother character in ORDINARY PEOPLE who couldn't deal with her younger son's attempted suicide. Joseph Fiennes understands the tortured soul character from ELIZABETH and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE where as a young Shakespeare, he was prodded into writing a play about pirates, clowns and "a bit with a dog" then, surrounded by actors, eager with anticipation, he describes the scene where Romeo takes the poison and Juliet, upon seeing him dead, kills herself. Unresolved grief is just as strong as true love in its purest form. At times, there are no words that can comfort.

The setting and scenery along the Hudson Valley is beautiful and these moments are skillfully interwoven by editor Michael Taylor (ORDER OF MYTHS). While not always in the order except for the beginning (Troy, New York) and the end (Atlantic Ocean), the film is deftly handled along with music composr Anton Sanko's lyrical calling to our primordial emotions, capturing the alluring mystique that the Hudson River evokes. It's one that the local population have known for a long time.

AGAINST THE CURRENT will be playing at the local theaters in and around Hudson Valley.

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