In a small American town still living in the shadow of a terrible coal mine accident, the disappearance of a teenage boy draws together a surviving miner, the lonely wife of a mine executive, and a local boy in a web of secrets.
I wasn’t planning to attend Little Accidents when it screened at the Seattle International Film Festival. With 450 films from which to choose, a film about a coal mining disaster sounded depressing. However, when I was sent a free pass from SIFF, I went anyway.
Not only was I was pleasantly surprised by Sara Colangelo’s debut feature film, I was moved by it. Little Accidents is the type of film that stays with you long after the lights come up.
Although it is a coal mine disaster that sets the events of the film in motion, the action begins months after the accident, as Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holbrook) returns to his life in the small West Virginia town after convalescing from injuries that he sustained in the accident. He is the sole survivor.
Life is anything but normal as Amos finds himself torn between telling the truth about the cause of the accident, and keeping his mouth shut, which will dishonor his ten friends who died. If he testifies that management’s cost-cutting decisions led to the disaster, the mine will be closed and his friends and family will be left without any way to feed their families.
Just as the town is beginning to deal with the loss of the miners, the son of one of the mine’s managers (Josh Lucas) goes missing. Is it retaliation or a freak accident? Young Owen, played by Jacob Loftland (Mud), who is the son of a killed miner, has the answer, but he deals with his own struggle to reveal the truth.
The character-driven film follows the seemingly parallel story lines of Amos, Owen and Diane Doyle (Elizabeth Banks), the mother of the missing boy, but eventually the parallel lives begin to intertwine as they find themselves connected by fate.
The performances by everyone in this film, especially Holbrook and Loftland, are superb. A touching scene between Amos and Diane outside a convenience store nearly left me in tears.
Although I felt the relationship between Amos and Dianne could have been developed further, I was fully satisfied by the completion of the plot lines and left feeling blown away by the entire experience, which was enhanced by the attendance of the director, Colangelo.
Colangelo directed a 2010 short by the same name, which deals with issues of the working class. She wanted to set the expanded feature film in a mining community, after being moved by so many recent coal-mining accidents that she was unable to get off her mind.
One interesting piece of information that Colangelo provided was that the movie was shot in 24 days and entirely in film, in order to capture the grittiness of the subject matter. Kodak donated half of the film.
Little Accidents isn’t so much a film about a coal mining disaster as it is a film about loss and how we choose to deal with the tragic events that occur in our lives. Of all the films I saw at SIFF this year, this is my favorite.
The film is set to be released in January 2015. Go see it!