Returning to our childhood home following a burn out in the big city, or even just the desire to escape back to a simpler time and place in our lives, is something relatable to many of us. With that transition can come the realization that time and people move on in your absence, but can a small town ever really move on from the dark secrets of its past?
Such is the basis for the latest release from Breaking Glass Pictures, UNION BRIDGE, available for streaming on May 19, 2020. Written, directed, and produced by Brian Levin (Flock of Dudes, I am Zumwalt), with Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds, Suburban Gothic) on board as an Executive Producer, UNION BRIDGE is a stylish and suspenseful mystery with one foot in the confusing present, and the other in the turbulent past of Civil War America.
The heir to a powerful dynasty, Will Shipe (Scott Friend – Fourteen) escapes from the stress of city life, moving back to his hometown where his cold and enigmatic mother, Jeanie (Elisabeth Noone – The Wire, Criminal Minds) awaits. Much to her disapproval, Will reconnects with childhood friends, Nick (Alex Breaux – Trick, Depraved) and Mary (Emma Duncan – Dietland), and begins to let his hair down and relax, ignoring the town gossip about the pair’s mental health. But Nick’s relentless digging in the fields, in search of answers to a long-buried mystery, and his talk of visions, soon become too much for Will to ignore, and he gets pulled into a century-old feud with disastrous results.
UNION BRIDGE is quick to lull the viewer into a kind of semi-hypnotic state with its Nicolas Winding Refn style of beautiful panoramic shots set to an atmospheric, electronic soundtrack. The difference lies in its cutscenes, dramatic and haunting glimpses into the Civil War era story that is heavily impacting Will and his friends’ present situation. The story moves at a speed reminiscent of life in a sleepy town, yet adequately builds in momentum as it heads towards its climax.
Scott Friend‘s performance as Will is both likeable and relatable, while Emma Duncan is truly mesmerizing as the troubled Mary. Their blossoming relationship feels organic and right in terms of the wider narrative, eerily echoing Nick’s visions of the past. Alex Breaux brings strange and sympathetic energy to the character of Nick, who, although he says very little, is always physically present in all of his scenes, casting a disturbing and unignorable shadow over whatever is happening around him.
The highlight of UNION BRIDGE‘s casting is Elisabeth Noone – a terrifying force of nature as Jeanie Shipe. A woman who struggles to maintain her cool and distant facade while trying to protect the one thing she has left – her family name. Recovering from her missing husband’s often implied, but never truly revealed, misdemeanours, she battles to keep Will and his friends from whatever is hidden in the land, by any means necessary. Noone’s on-screen presence is undeniable, and the moments where her true colors shine through are deliciously unsettling. Jeanie Shipe is a woman to be feared, a fact that is evident from her first scene, through to her last.
UNION BRIDGE is a strange creature of a movie, set apart from its peers, and difficult to categorize in terms of whatever it is a thriller about family secrets, a historical mystery, a paranormal tale of ghosts and visions, or whether it belongs under the horror umbrella. In truth, it is all of these things. If you want a movie that lays out the questions and then gives you the answers, this is not for you.
As in the small towns of our childhoods, darkness is implied without ever being spoken about directly, secrets hinted at and discussed in a code indecipherable to outsiders. It may prove a tough journey for some, much as the journey to the truth is fraught with danger for Will, and the conclusion somewhat predictable, but the beauty, suspense, and deeper messages of UNION BRIDGE make it one to watch.