Director: Victor Nunez
Joking that I was the type of person who trips and apologizes to the sidewalk, instead of a swear jar, a few years back, a friend suggested I start an “I’m Sorry” jar. While in our questionable economic climate, it seemed foolish to tie up valuable quarters in what --for lack of a better phrase-- would technically be a jar of overly good manners, his challenge made me grin in realization of how far it went from irrational guilt when I neglect to return a library book on time to feeling like a jerk if I screen a phone call from an overly chatty caller. While a genuine born square or to quote Adam Ant, a certifiable “goody two shoes,” needless to say as a human, I certainly understand the temptation and can even admit that it’s quite possible to have romantic feelings for more than one person at a time-- the heart is extraordinarily resilient and limitless-- yet I can’t even fathom actually cheating on someone. Naïve, I confess and romantic, absolutely, but I’m constantly amazed by the self-created drama we go through in the dating world from another friend who seems to have a new fiancé he calls his “soul mate” every time I run into him to a cousin who married in a Star Wars themed ceremony. Love is crazy indeed and we wouldn’t have it any other way-- otherwise, where would we be without all of its artistic, cultural and historic byproducts?
Romantic infidelity and the ever popular love triangle serve as frequent fodder for not only film noir but soap operas as well and so, as The New York Times noted, it makes the perfect impetus for a sultry Florida set romantic drama from writer/director Victor Nunez. No stranger to Florida, having burst onto the independent film scene with Ruby in Paradise and launching Peter Fonda’s comeback with Ulee’s Gold, Nunez crafts a compelling, if admittedly subpar film that builds its romantic drama courtesy of another oft-utilized film noir plot point-- namely, reuniting two characters who grew up as closer-than-brothers best friends and now find themselves as adults on opposite sides of the law.
As the film opens, our antihero complete with a tongue-in-cheek name-- Sonny Mann (Timothy Olyphant)-- is released early from an overcrowded prison after spending a few years in the joint on a dope running charge. Having taken the fall without ratting on his employers--the amoral Vances consisting of William Forsythe’s Uncle Fred and Josh Lucas as his nephew Eddie-- Sonny returns to the men hoping they’ll make good on a two hundred thousand dollar I.O.U. but predictably learns that they’ve grown even more dangerous while he’s been away, practically running their sleepy seaside town, much to the chagrin of his former best friend turned police officer Dave Lockhart (Josh Brolin). While Dave and Sonny’s father (Scott Wilson) hope Sonny won’t return to his old ways, Dave’s wife Ann (Sarah Wynter) pleads with her husband to keep an eye on Sonny as well, worried that he’ll never grow up.
All it takes is one smoldering look and a halfhearted, half-joking request for his old high school classmate Ann to run away with him and soon Sonny finds himself increasingly drawn to his old friend’s wife as the film which began as a moody noir ramps up into strong romantic drama. However, somehow despite the inarguable attractiveness of the leads, Nunez keeps us at arm’s length and the film suffers considerably with regard to Wynter’s underwritten Ann whom we never quite get a handle on, other than the vague sense of her feeling torn between loyalty to her husband and lust for her friend.
While it seems it’s only appropriate to cheer for the cheater in Ralph Fiennes styled romantic infidelity dramas, by not giving the audience any true understanding of who Ann is as an individual, she begins to feel as one-dimensional as a soap opera heroine, making us wish that more than the rest of the cast, the film centered on the talented Brolin’s heroic, do-gooder cop who definitely deserves more from not only his wife and best friend but the filmmaker as well, which perhaps makes his Dave the one worthiest of an “I’m Sorry” jar.