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Frank (Laurence Fuller) is a shell of a man, who from the very start, is one easily put on hold, no matter the hollow protests he offers. Weak-willed and practically voiceless, he gets a call from an old friend named Jack (Micah Parker), a charismatic drifter of sorts coming into town. On the same day he arrives, Frank walks in on his girlfriend having an affair with his boss, a man who has little respect for Frank. All Frank can do is walk away. And stab a cake.
As luck would have it, Jack takes Frank to a bar and there Frank meets Ruby, a pretty girl that treats Frank kindly, and then to quick fling in the backseat of his sedan. Problem is, right while that’s going on, a man in a mask bursts into the car and murders Ruby and attacks Frank. When he wakes up, he finds the girl in the trunk and the bloody knife tucked into his shorts.
Desperate, he enlists Jack–who confesses a secret–to helping him with what to do next. Jack has a plan: cut up Ruby, stuff her in a suitcase and drive up to the Northern Californian woods where a family friend has a cabin, then bury her among the trees. Frank, in shock, agrees. As most simple plans go, it seems foolproof, yet what follows is anything but as Franks becomes ensnared in a deadly trap that pulls tighter with every step he takes.
Written and directed by Jon Cvack, Road to the Well is a slow burn, a talky character-driven thriller that takes its time getting to where it wants to go, the path there circuitous. Along the way, there are lengthy conversations and diversions that stand like hurdles for Jack and Frank, the body in the truck serving as the MacGuffin that seems to be always this close to being discovered. It’s a gruesome little plot device that adds a lot of punch to what would otherwise seem like random encounters, but instead become primers for inciting what happens in the third act.
In a film such as this, one nearly devoid any conventional action, there is concern, especially with its long runtime, that the premise might no be sustainable. Indeed, it takes nearly twenty-five minutes before the plot really begins, and yet by the time that happens, we already know just what we should, making the choices that are made immediately after, far more plausible. Frank and Jack are deliberate opposites, from the color of their hair to the manner in which they see resolution playing out, something that is crucial to the climax. Frank is a passionless, monotone, figure that feels all the more rigid compared to the impulsive, wordy Jack, who is entirely reactionary, despite a gift for pliable conversation that only seems to dig holes rather than move him forward.
There’s a terrific scene with Frank, Jack and a retired soldier in a cabin in the woods that is strangely reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino‘s opening volley in Inglorious Basterds (2009) where a mostly two-person dialogue becomes a contest of wills with a secret held by one and the other waiting to expose their knowledge of it. It’s moments like this that lend Road to the Well its greatest strength, even when there are some lapses that beg a few questions, most especially concerning a decision made during that day that is held off for the night.
Fuller as Frank is a hard man to get behind, which seems the point, playing so dry he is practically a mute vessel of dead-eyed stares. What he earns from us by the end is not typical, for we hardly feel anything more than what we did at the start, and yet we are affected by the contempt life seems to have for him, even when he makes a harrowing decision. Parker has great presence, a bit like a young Henry Cavill, and is a powder keg of minimalistic expression. Both do great work.
Road to the Well, is not going to be for everyone, as Cvack is far more interested in establishing and maintaining a grinding sense of tension than lots of physical conflicts. In that regard, the film has a smartness to it that keeps it sharp. While it’s probably twenty minutes too long, with some middle padding that could have seen some cuts, the film is nonetheless gorgeously photographed and well-acted, making this a solid debut for Cvack.
Movie description: Road To The Well is a drama-thriller about two friends who become involved in a seemingly random murder that drags them into a darkness where there might be no escape.
Director(s): Jon Cvack
Actor(s): Micah Parker, Laurence Fuller
Genre: Drama, Thriller