Review: ‘Beyond the Bridge’

dfn-beyondthebridge-300When’s the last time one heard of framing an entire film around the scattered lyrics of a song? That’s exactly the catalyst first time filmmakers Ramon Malpica, Lindsey Cummings and Matthew Thomas took with their debut film, titled Beyond the Bridge. As fans of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts,” the trio fashioned a short film around a mosaic of interconnected stories about youth on the edge of desperation and depression. It’s not cheery subject matter, to be sure, but one that deserves more honest attention nowadays.

Sort of a Robert Altman-esque merry-go-round of conversations and missed chances for five disparate souls, Beyond the Bridge opens on marginally successful musician Kano (Michael Nguyen) as he slides deeper and deeper into heroin abuse. By pure luck, he meets a girl (Feven Tesfaye) who happens to be listening to his music on her Ipod and they start up a relationship.

Fellow musician Sammy (Nathan Guerra) carries his own demons. Homosexual and shying away from his musical talent, things don’t get any easier for him when he finally (abruptly) comes out to his family.

The largest portion of the film follows therapist DahNeesh (Elijah Britton) as he faces the death of his twin brother in cathartic fashion, publishing a book (in a meta twist, the same title as the film, or perhaps vice versa) and his dealings with a suicidal artist Jacob (Kameron Badger). Their section exemplifies the push-and-pull of the therapeutic process. Just when one thinks they’ve ascertained control of the disease, it rears its ugly head again.

How these five people crescendo with their emotions, doubts and fears creates the general through line for Beyond the Bridge. Amateurish at times and lacking real emotional depth from its unknown and young cast, the real coup is the final ten minutes, which shifts away from the fictional narrative and presents three different testimonials of people either suffering from depression or gravely impacted by the disease.

Feeling like something from an Errol Morris film and his uniquely personal aesthetic via his”Interrotron” camera, Beyond the Bridge features real people talking directly to the audience. The lighting reflects brightly in their eyes. The black and white photography is shimmering, but not enough to hide the emotions that break and ebb across their faces. And their stories are heartbreaking. It’s as if they’re daring us to act up, respond, walk out and donate time and effort to the various local suicide hotlines. It just goes to show that no matter how much energy and creative wit goes into creating made-up story, it’s never quite the equal of real, raw stories.

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