REVIEW: This is Martin Bonner: A Deeply Human Work by Jake Cole

Chad Hartigan sets up the title card for his sophomore feature, This Is Martin Bonner, with small but revealing glimpses into the character’s life. We meet Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) in a Nevada prison, attempting to sell an inmate on a Christian-themed rehabilitation program for whom he acts as a business manager. But the roles of authority and confinement are quickly reversed, with the pragmatic, quick-witted prisoner calling out the nervousness and discomfort in Martin’s face, correctly guessing he is new to the job. When Martin later has to read his address off a Post-It Note, it is clear that he is new to just about everything around him, having relocated to Reno without his family to find work.

Eenhoorn’s Australian accent instantly marks Martin apart from his surroundings, but his sense of displacement is far more specific and intimate than a national separation. (Further shrinking that geographic distance, the life he leaves behind is one on the East Coast, not Perth.) Martin’s modestly furnished apartment is filled with dead space, but medium-long shots of him relaxing and cooking emphasize how cramped his new digs really are. The camera generally remains static, with only the occasional, delicate pan to break up its long takes and shot/reverse shot patterns. It’s an old-school form of filmmaking that befits the film’s middle-aged protagonist while also making a clear distinction between itself and the jittery, youth-oriented style of most indie cinema. But it also emphasizes the quiet bewilderment of a man who, though he never makes a fuss about it, clearly did not expect so vast a change in his life at his age.

Click here to read the rest of Jake’s very positive review.