Oliver Sherman Ryan Redford

Oliver Sherman Ryan Redford
With the premise of Oliver Sherman being that of war veteran Sherman Oliver (Garret Dillahunt) showing up unannounced on the doorstep of fleeting war buddy acquaintance Franklin (Donal Logue), only to outstay his welcome and create a sense of discomfort for Franklin's wife, Irene (Molly Parker), and children, there are a couple of obvious ways it could play out. One: the film could act as a political mantra, criticizing society for its throwaway/bury your head in the sand treatment of war veterans, suggesting that a culture of war creates an emotional imbalance the rest of us are unprepared to deal with. Two: the film could eschew this political foundation and act as a twisty domestic thriller, purporting the dangers of social outsiders to the assimilated Judeo-Christian nuclear family, much like every thriller made in the early '90s. And while Ryan Redford's impressively rendered feature film debut doesn't openly defy either of these potential interpretations, it doesn't abide by them either, concerning itself more so with pacing, psychological tension and slow-building, complex characterizations. In structure, this low-key dramatic thriller works as an anxiety-inducing, passive-aggressive tale of repressed thoughts and feelings bubbling slowly to the surface as tension builds into inevitable conflict. Sherman's inability to read social cues, saying callous, cynical things when confronted with commonplace pleasantries, builds as his thinly veiled rage and self-loathing bubble to the surface. Early on, his string of expletives uttered at a children's birthday party after dropping a plate of hotdogs sets him up as a volatile force in an otherwise idyllic environment, which builds as his resentment for Irene becomes increasingly evident. This is where the psychology of the film comes into play, with Sherman living in the past, looking for Franklin to revisit old scars and act as a confidante, despite the fact that Franklin has left the past behind. Irene is quietly acting in the interest of her family unit, aware that their new visitor is a volcano ready to erupt, but not wanting to act as a shrill, nagging cliché to her kind-hearted, somewhat idealistic husband. These subtle conversations and innuendo give Oliver Sherman its power, acting as a sharp analysis of social niceties confronted by survival instincts and unspoken tension. Unfortunately, no supplements are included with the DVD to expand upon the actors' process of developing their characters. (Mongrel Media)