Review by Mark Schwab
July 25th, 2019
LORD FINN, writer/director Al Mertens' feature film debut, is an attempt to juggle multiple emotional storylines a la MAGNOLIA and then bring them together into a cohesive message/point of view. The person who most of the other characters orbit in one way or another is Daniel Finley (Ben Richardson) - a clearly troubled individual whose voice carries a Shakespearean lilt in nearly all of his dialogue. It's clear from the start that Daniel is suffering from a lot of mental issues and as we watch him make life messy for everyone around him the other storylines emerge; there's Cheer (Sarahjoy Mount) an incarcerated woman dealing with life on the inside and a mysterious hotel rendezvous between Warren (Delno Ebie) and Jasmine (Jamie Loy).
For quite awhile these three stories play out in a vacuum, disconnected from each other, which not only caused me a lot of confusion with plotting but also with pacing. If the three stories were compelling, the pacing problem might have been alleviated but each story has issues that kept me at arm's length emotionally with most of the acting pitched way over the top. In the Daniel Finley/Lord Finn storyline, my patience with the lead character ran thin very quickly. His constant Stratford-upon-Avon scenery chewing overshadowed the family dynamics trying to play out and I simply had no sympathy for him - I just wanted him locked away and not come out until he got the therapy he needed.
The strange hotel set piece between Warren and Jasmine lacks the needed edge to draw the viewer in. The two protagonists here develop no chemistry - sexual or otherwise - and it plays out too simply as if it had to be shot quickly with a minimum of takes. As such, the actors never find a rhythm and it comes off stiff.
The prison story technically comes off best mainly because Sarahjoy Mount as Cheer gives it everything she has, creating an interesting character that held my attention - Mount is authentic, gritty and has a clear idea of what she's doing within the bounds of the plot. It also features some of Mertens' strongest direction, making me wonder if he shot this sequence towards the end of principal photography when he found more footing.
As all of this is cuts back and forth in fits and starts, struggling to tie things up at the end, I had a tough time keeping track of where one story was last headed and why the characters were talking about such and such. It was difficult to follow with not enough interesting characters or polished performances to keep me involved.
I really wanted to like LORD FINN - it's obvious that everyone worked hard, had fun making it and they really did succeed in earning two diamonds for having good cinematography and a fine sound mix. That isn't easy to do and deserves genuine respect. For a debut indie feature film, Al Mertens gets an A for effort even if the storytelling and acting fell short for me - I think he'll be back and better for it.
To read all about LORD FINN, check out their website: www.lordfinnfilm.com