Steel City Brian Jun

Steel City Brian Jun
Brian Jun’s ultra low-budget working-class tale of familial discontent, atonement and redemption in a small Illinois community is an affecting and surprisingly hopeful drama that shows great promise for the young writer/director. Steel City follows PJ (Tom Guiry) as he’s questioned by the police after his father, Carl (John Heard), is arrested for the accidental death of a woman. Finding himself alone and unwilling to accept the adult responsibilities thrown at him, he winds up losing his home and unable to connect with those around him. Developing an emotionally abusive romantic relationship with insecure parental colleague Amy (America Ferrera), PJ winds up mirroring the behaviour of his gruff father and misanthropic uncle, Vic (Raymond J. Barry). This story unfolds via naturalistic writing. A believable vernacular is attributed to each character, as they all relate and interact with each other, while situations are set up with care, never falling into the false theatrics or unnecessary overexertion often associated with indie character dramas. Steel City examines disappointment and learned behaviour with great insight, maintaining the difficult emotional integrity involved with ambivalence. These issues are given additional depth by the top-notch performances delivered by the cast. As PJ’s distant mother Marianne, Laurie Metcalf shows serious acting chops with her subdued exploration of a willingly deluded woman. Likewise, Raymond J. Barry is simultaneously tender and frightening as an angry man with unwavering ideologies. Unfortunately the weakest of the bunch is the lead, Tom Guiry. While he gives his character range, communicating inner-conflict well, he occasionally overacts, misreading the flow of a scene, and has a tendency to look at the camera. Behind the lens, Jun shows an understanding of the craft, delivering a deliberately paced, reflective drama. Steel City isn’t a perfect film, occasionally dragging, but it is a very impressive debut. (Peace Arch)