A Year and Change is an emotional film that leaves you thinking about life and what’s important long after the credits roll. From first-time feature director Stephen Suettinger (who proves here he has some real talent) and memorable performances from the ensemble cast, this independent film is worth watching.
A Year and Change tells the story of Owen, a man whose life has taken a wrong turn due to bad decisions and too much drinking. He’s divorced, has an 11-year-old son and works as a vending machine proprietor, but has no real concept of fulfilling his obligations. However, when he drunkenly falls off the roof at a New Year’s Eve party and breaks his arm, the beginning of his “change” begins. The process of Owen’s transformation is spread throughout the following year. He quits drinking, meets a banker named Vera who he falls in love with, becomes a better Dad and friend – all while creating a new family that gives his life meaning.
What’s great about this film is that the transformation of Owen is, in fact, a process – it doesn’t happen overnight. The change happens like the passing of seasons.
What’s great about this film is that the transformation of Owen is, in fact, a process – it doesn’t happen overnight. The change happens like the passing of seasons. The film starts with Owen being completely self-destructive – which then leads the audience to watch his journey into becoming a better man. From one New Year to the next, we see just how much one person can change if they choose to. Bryan Greenburg gives a wonderful performance in the lead role and captures the realism of his situation while also finding a way to make him likable. You root for him because you can still see the good in him. His compassion for others really stands out in the film. Owen has a way of seeing the good in others, which makes it easy for the audience to see the same in him.
An interesting subplot follows Owen’s cousin Kenny (T.R. Knight), who is facing some trouble with the law after an underage girl he gave alcohol to falls into a coma. Director and Co-Writer, Stephen Suettinger, makes a powerful filmmaking choice in the portrayal of Kenny. At first, I wrote Kenny off as a character – thinking he was just a bad influence on Owen. However, as the story continues, Kenny becomes quite layered and heartbreaking as we begin to understand the depth and reasoning behind his unhappiness – which is incredibly dark. Without giving too much away, I will say that T.R. Knight truly gives an incredible performance in this supporting role that works as the perfect foil to Owen.
On top of the stories of transformation and/or lost potential, there’s also the romance between Owen and Vera. Vera (played by Claire Van der Boom) is also a divorcee – but is much more together than Owen. She works at a bank and meets Owen at the New Year’s Eve party where he fell off the roof. From the start, Vera helps spark Owen into wanting to be better. While the romance isn’t the main focus of the story (Owen’s transformation is), it’s a sweet and believable romance with great chemistry between the actors.
The other supporting characters are great as well. There’s Owen’s son Adam who longs for a Dad who will be there for him, Cindy – Owen’s ex-wife, Victor (Marshall Allman) – Owen’s cousin who just got out of prison and is now staying with him, his friend Angie and her brother Todd who are dealing with a painful loss, Pam (Jamie Chung) – Owen’s toxic ex-girlfriend, and Owen’s Aunt Claire who is struggling with dealing with two sons who have made incredibly bad choices. Each of the characters are well written and authentic feeling.
Besides the performances, the script is great and the cinematography wonderful. There was one subtle, romantic scene I particularly enjoyed as Owen and Vera stare at each other in the raining snow with umbrellas. It was gorgeously shot. I was also impressed with the musical score and how it perfectly captured the emotions of the scenes without being over the top. Still, the film is not without its flaws. While I enjoyed the film, there were a few slow moments and I felt some of the bad language in parts could have been toned down as they weren’t always necessary. However, overall, I really liked the film.
If you appreciate a good indie drama with strong characterization, an emotional story, and a sweet romance, then A Year and Change may be a good choice to watch this Thanksgiving season. It is a film about learning what is important in life, after all.
A Year and Change will be available in select theaters this month and will also be released on VOD and DVD on November 24, 2015. You can learn more about the film at www.ayearandchangemovie.com.
Content Note: This film is not rated, but if it was it would be rated R. So just be aware that there is some bad language in this film, especially in a couple of intense scenes. There is also a sex scene.
Photos: Vision Films/Pebble Hill Films.
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