DON'T PASS ME BY
Review by Mark Schwab
Movies that attempt to juggle multiple storylines and characters is usually a dodgy proposition even under ideal studio-financed conditions. When you are lower-budgeted indie filmmakers putting your faith into a first-time director, you are really stacking the odds against yourself. Co- screenwriters, producers and stars Rachel Noll and Katy Burton have done exactly that though with Don't Pass Me By, a feature film that moves between five stories which can't quire overcome the obstacles it has set in front itself.
There is much uneveness here beginning with the cast. For an independent feature, this has a lot of good "names" here - with Keith David, C. Thomas Howell, Jeremy London and Jake Busey all putting in appearances. Which actually distracts the film because these names pop up but aren't given enough screentime to develop beyond a "Look, it's the kid from the Outsiders!" moment. I'm sure these guys helped get this film more on the map but they don't help the movie.
The five stories here are mostly at the soap opera level with five different women all struggling with a personal crisis, forcing them to make a Life Decision. Four of the five stories were too standard to keep me fully engaged and director Eric Priestley trips over his feet a bit in trying to navigate a proper pace between them. To be fair, this would be difficult for a seasoned filmmaker and I'm sure Priestley did his best but he just wasn't able to drive the narrative and ends up all over the map.
Another problem here that also must be mentioned is the soundtrack. The songs are syrupy and obvious - almost telegraphing what emotion you are supposed to be feeling like one of those "APPLAUSE" signs that light up during a television taping for a studio audience.
There are two positives here though worth mentioning and one is Rachel Noll. She was the only one that always had my attention when she was on screen. Her character is struggling with stage 4 cancer and, with just weeks to live, she meets a Mr. Perfect in Josh played by Sean Stone (yes, Oliver Stone's son). Although it's contrived and Sean Stone is way too cuddly and...well....perfect....to resemble an actual human being (almost to the point of feeling like stunt casting), Noll rises far above the standard material to make her character into someone I cared about. I would love to see her in a better movie, because she is appealing and interesting on screen.
The second positive is the cinematography. Co-DP's David Bacon and Ryan Chapman do a real nice job in making this indie film well-lit and solidly composed and it helps make it much more watchable. It speaks well of Noll and Burton as producers in that they've mounted a good-looking indie film with a strong cast. If they can get their hands on a stronger script and a more sure-footed director, I'd certainly be curious to see what they could pull off.
You can check out Don't Pass Me By at their Amazon.com site.