Review by Mark Schwab
December 30th, 2018
Declan Holmes (Matthew King) is stuck and confused. Right from the start we know he's in trouble when the first words we hear him gloomily speak in a voiceover "I wanted to tell you about the night I decided to kill myself." Declan runs out onto a bridge and we are soon transported back to the events that led up to his dark night of the soul.
Declan is a film student on the cusp of graduation when he gets an unexpected opportunity to showcase his talents; he is one of three students who will have their screenplay showcased at their end of the year film festival. But instead of this leading to confidence and fulfillment, it brings on every insecurity and inner demon that has been lying in wait leading him to ponder ending it all on the aforementioned bridge.
Written and directed by Matt Croyle (who also stars in a key role as Declan's professor), POTENTIAL INERTIA has all the classic signs of a deeply personal story that unfortunately struggles to emotionally connect an audience beyond the filmmaker's personal network. For me, this was mainly due to the cast and dialogue which wasn't strong enough to overcome the too-familiar beats of the "angry tortured artist who nobody understands" story. As Declan, Matthew King isn't given enough to work with (i.e. dialogue and direction) regarding his dilemmas which made it very difficult to believe that he was ever in any real crisis. Considering Declan is in nearly every scene, this consistently works against the film.
To be clear, none of the cast here is "bad" in the sense they can't act. It's more that everyone just disappears into the frame without making an impression. The dialogue has the same problem - none of it is tin-eared or silly, it's just...there. Everyone says what they are supposed to say to take the plot to the next drama point, making it play out on screen as if a list is being checked off. There were no surprises, no edges and the characters and situations weren't original enough to create a consciously created mood a la Jim Jarmusch or Alexander Payne. Which is a little bit of a shame since the black and white cinematography by writer/director Croyle is lovely throughout and I really liked the moments here when the film just breathes with its Pennsylvania locations and let's the imagery take the audience away with it. In those sequences, the direction is strong, it captivates and I wish there was more of it in the film.
For a low-budget indie film, POTENTIAL INTERIA does a decent-enough job overall but if you're going to have a movie that has a lot of dialogue and a familiar narrative, you need top notch character actors to elevate it beyond that familiarity. Otherwise, stick with the strongest suits you have - whether it's great photography, a killer soundtrack or one really compelling character - and exploit them to that to the fullest. POTENTIAL INERTIA proves to be a very apt title; plenty of potential, not enough forward movement.
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