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September 12th

Film Two Stars

There are a number of mainstream films in production about the events around September 11th 2001 that are making the headlines right now with controversy and questions of whether it is too soon or not. Yet many of these people fail to realise that films have already been made on the subject, films that are tackling many of the issues head on. One such film is September 12th, which tackles the emotive subject of loss and of grief.

The film looks at how a family are dealing with the loss of a loved one as they lay Lori Riga to rest some three years after that tragic day. It focusses on two characters in particular, her brother Frank and her husband Rick. Rick features the path of acceptance, looking at her life for all the good and not the bad, choosing to remember the happiness. Frank, however, tries not to think about her at all and it's soon clear that he hasn't come to terms with her death at all.

The story is a strong one, and a brave one to bring to the screen. The writing and characterisation is good, with focus on two main scenes, that between Frank and Rick as they work out their differences and both talk about and understand more of the person they both loved, and that between Frank and the Lawyer Eddie. It's this latter scene that the film really hangs on, and this can be said for the film too.

Some of the ancillary actors provide flat and lifeless performances which are quite jarring for the performance, particularly that of the Mother and Sister. Their lines felt lacking in emotion and conviction which had the affect of pulling me out of the movie. The portrayal of Rick also seemed slightly stilted at times, as though James Garrett was struggling to find the right way to play the character, however both he and Joe Iacovino, who plays Frank, do settle into their performances and begin to portray the feeling of believability later on in the film.

The best performance undoubtedly goes to Ernest Mingione who plays the lawyer. His final scene is perhaps where this story succeeds and overcomes the small films limitations. His acting during this scene is very good, with an emotional performance that feels very real, filled with pain, while fighting a strong male pride. Having no personal connection with the events of that day I can't say that this film was going to touch any personal feelings with me, and yet I did feel for this scene and this performance.

Iacovino plays against him well during this scene, and we watch as his own character changes. It's a character change that begins with the first important scene opposite Garrett, as he begins to open up and turn his mind back to the person that was his sister.

Although I did enjoy the story its dramatic pace could have been increased by turning the attention more quickly to these two key scenes, as well as playing more of the tension between the two characters in the final scenes before the revelation. This is something that was also apparent in the filming itself, there were a lot of scenes that featured the camera lingering on shots and holding frame between lines, something that kept time away from these more crucial scenes.

It's strange for me to say that because earlier on in the film there is perhaps one of the harshest moments of cutting I've ever seen, where the camera bullet leaps from character to character multiple times to gauge reactions. It's almost like that scene from the Rocky Horror Picture Show - "Rocky!", "Janet!", "Brad!", "Doctor Scott!", "Rocky!"...etc.

I really do think that there is a fine balance to be found between these two styles of editing in the film. I think this movie would portray itself a lot better with a stronger and more even edit.

The DVD screener I watched also suffered from the audio being slightly out of sync at times, the obvious effect of redubbing and some poor colour saturation levels. However with screeners these faults can often be placed at the need to get a quick copy out to reviewers, so little stock should be paid to that.

Overall the story is a good one, and I feel that with those who have stronger connections with the attacks will feel much more of a connection with this movie and the performances than I did. The final scenes were by far and large the best moments of the film and what it was all building to, and its a shame that I didn't get to feel the same about the scene between the brother and husband. With a stronger edit this film could well be deserving of a three out of five. It shows a lot of promise for the two writers Mark Lickona and John Touhey.

IMDB Film Details



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