Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80 minutes
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I realize that this shot on digital video bleak tale of suicide and family collapse is most likely based on real events, so it’s a little tough for me to say that I really did not care for “Lullaby”. By saying that, I feel like I might as well be at somebody’s funeral, telling the family that the headstone sucks. Oh well. Here we go.
“Lullaby” opens on teenage James as he’s quietly playing a tune on his guitar. The mood is somber, so I thinks to myself okay, who piddled on whose parade? Then, we cut to a funeral scene with James and his family and friends in attendance. Ah, I understand. The family is grief-stricken, so the mood is just right. Then we return to James’ house where he lives with his mother and father. This is when we discover that James’ brother Billy had killed himself just two weeks prior, hence the funeral. So the mourning process continues with the family moping about the house like zombies, but this is understandable. Something will happen to propel this story forward I thinks to myself. Well, this just doesn’t happen. The moping continues for the entire length of the feature with not a whole hell of a lot happening to break the monotony. Characters mope around the house as well as around town. I think the most action this feature offers is when James freaks out because his guitar feeds back, so he runs outside and throws a little hissy fit. Not even a kiss is shown. In one scene, James and his girlfriend are sitting in his car. They turn to each other to kiss, but – cut to an outside shot of the car – then cut back to them pulling away from each other. Eek!
Throughout the film, we’re shown flashbacks of life at home with Billy shortly before his suicide and to tell you the truth; things aren’t a whole hell of a lot cheerier. You see, Billy is a sensitive artist with a bad ear for music and a dead girlfriend. He refuses to eat with his family. Instead, he hammers away at his music. His dad, a musician himself, constantly grinds his son about playing the wrong notes. Nope, not a very happy household to begin with and now with Billy dead, the mood just gets gloomier. Following in his brother’s footsteps, James forms a band of which his dad, learning from his past lesson, tries to be supportive as possible, but these things just don’t work out. The family continues to mope about the house and dad begins to freak out due to guilt. Finally, James spills the beans to his girlfriend the reason for Billy’s demise. Then we cut to his bright bedroom where James continues to mope about to the tune of a Smashing Pumpkins song before the end credits roll. I’m sorry if this film description is dull, but so was the film.
So droopy are these characters that I was sincerely praying for Sergeant Hulka from “Stripes” to walk into a scene and go – LIGHTEN UP, FRANCIS! It’s not only the dreary mood of the characters or lack of action that keeps this film at a standstill, but it’s also the fact that nearly every single line of dialogue is mumbled. The audio is badly recorded in the first place, but having the actors mumble their way through their lines makes it frequently difficult to hear what’s going on, especially when the music is drowning out the dialogue as well. Having most of the film in black and white also adds to the sluggishness.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned in “Lullaby”. The first is – the actors need to project their dialogue, as well as their performances. I realize that the mood was supposed to be depressing in “Lullaby”, but having everyone mumbling to themselves and each other does not convey this mood properly. Yes, things got depressing, but for all the wrong reasons.
The second is – just because the camera’s been turned on, doesn’t mean that something will magically happen. The filmmaker, his cast and crew need to make that something happen if they hope to hook their audience and keep them watching all the way through to the end. Hell, you don’t even have to make a good film (even though that would be nice), but just make something interesting.
Now go forth children and make interesting cinema.
Posted on April 24, 2002 in Reviews by Eric Campos
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- THE LAST LULLABY
- WHISPER ME A LULLABY
- BILLY ELLIOT
- 2008 SAN DIEGO FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES AWARD WINNERS
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