The Whole Lot
Director: Connor Rickman
Writer: Matthew Ivan Bennett
Time: 75 minutes
By Mike Szymanski
Don’t pick a character that you like or relate to early on in this family drama. Chances are, you may change your mind about him or her pretty quickly, and many times in this twisting reunion of brother and sister.
“The Whole Lot” really has a whole lot going for it in this taut intriguing thriller where anything can happen — and it does. This is one of those dramas that will have you guessing all along the way, and even after.
The movie begins with a sobbing Della (played deftly by Sarah McLoney) who is listening to a last voice message from her father, who we quickly learned hanged himself in his garage filled with high-end vintage cars. Her husband Eli (portrayed by Blake Webb) is listening nearby without much of a reaction, and with seeming frustration at the desperate act of his father-in-law.
Della is going to reunite with her estranged brother Jamie (played by a big hulking Aaron Kramer). Jamie didn’t show up at the wake, or the funeral of their father’s but he is showing up at the garage where Della is supposed to offer her brother one of the vintage cars to help him get back on his feet.
This is a family without much connection or love for each other. The mother and father are never seen, but become characters that immediately seem distant and hateful. Jamie comes across as a bully at first, but he eventually does show his sensitive side.
Like the long icicles dripping on the side of the barn, this storytelling in the movie provides a drip, drip, drip of secrets that get revealed and uncovered in very uncomfortable ways.
It turns out that Eli already has plans to sell off his wife’s inheritance because he has a business deal that is costing way more than he figured, and they are broke. And, the father seemed to have hanged himself because of a big history of gambling debts that no one seemed to know about.
Brother Jamie has a history of violent temper tantrums and in the past has crushed Eli’s hand to the point of permanent injury. Everyone has their secrets, everyone has an axe to grind, everyone wants and needs not just one of the vintage cars, but the whole lot of them.
First-time director Connor Rickman does a fine job in being able to tell this small and intriguing story and somehow shoot it in five days and with a $15,000 budget, mostly self-financed. The movie pretty much has only one location, three characters and a story that happens in real-time.
The script by Matthew Ivan Bennet comes from his success as a playwright which shows he knows how to keep the dialogue interesting without the need of too much action or unnecessary film fluff. The ending may seem unsatisfying for some, but it will surely get you talking long after it’s over, as any good movie does.
The movie is punctuated by an original score of composter Russell Huiskampon. It was all shot on location in the Snyderville Basin in Summit County, Utah and was a recipient of the Utah Film Commission’s Next Level Grant by Salt Lake City.
Already getting some widespread accolades, the film was picked to close the 2022 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival where it had its world premiere.
Director Rickman and screenwriter Bennett already collaborated on an award-winning short called “B+A” screening at Slamdance and winner of Best Short Film at the City Weekly’s Best of Utah Arts, so it’s quite likely they will collaborate again after this success.