After the death of her parents, a young woman assumes primary guardianship of her special needs brother but as she attempts to balance her new life with her brother and her own blossoming romance, it becomes painfully clear that life will only make room for one.
A while back, I reviewed a movie titled “Run Like Hell.” Canyon Prince, the director of “Hard Sun”, wrote that movie, produced it and was also an actor in it but my review, unfortunately, was not very kind so you can imagine my surprise when Mr. Prince reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing his latest movie. I replied with a very enthusiastic “yes.” You see, when I started making movies, I had nobody to go to and ask if they would critique them, good or bad and with no internet, it meant having to contact the newspapers directly, which resulted in zero callbacks so when an indie filmmaker reaches out to me and asks me to review their movie, I will always say yes and if it’s a good movie, I will do everything I can to help promote it for them.
“Run Like Hell” is a horror/thriller while “Hard Sun” is a drama and not knowing much about the movie in advance, I kept expecting a chainsaw wielding maniac to jump out of the bushes but as the movie progressed, it dawned on me that it was actually a dramatic piece. And a damn good one I might add. The story centers on a young woman, Ruth (Robyn Buck), who after the death of her parents, assumes custody of her younger special needs brother Riley (John Bain) and who both live with their grandfather (Myron Natwick). She works at a local diner and has no time for herself as she is always busy with Riley but one day she meets Josh (Ben Begley) and her life changes.
Initially, she is hesitant to get involved as working at the diner and looking after Riley are both full-time jobs but they really like each other and decide to move forward with their relationship, one step at a time. It’s apparent early on that Ruth has never been in a serious long-term relationship and with Josh having been in very few himself, they are perfect for each other. After the two go out with Ruth’s best friend Lucy (Tamara Carey) and some of Josh’s friends to the lake, Lucy agrees to drive Riley home so that Ruth and Josh can spend some quality time together but on the way, with Josh’s obnoxious and inebriated friends, they stop off a party where Riley freaks out and runs off.
Ruth panics and drives off and eventually tracks him down but then things become strained between her and Lucy and Josh. After her grandfather finds a job offer from a big art gallery for Ruth in the trash, he insists that she take Riley to a special needs facility where he could be happy with other kids in his situation, that way, she can get out of her dead-end job and actually live her life but she refuses, stubbornness being one of her strong suits. Afterwards, Ruth realizes that she must take control of her life and make a decision that will change her destiny forever. The movie never feels fake and the acting by the entire cast is genuinely authentic, especially that of John Bain as Riley who conquers the physical aspects of his role in a performance of astonishing artistry and strength.
There is a minor subplot which involves one of Ruth's ex-boyfriends which pops up intermittently but ultimately it goes nowhere and could have been completely excised from the movie. This one criticism aside, director Canyon Prince tells a story we’ve seen a million times before but because he has created scenarios and characters that feel honest and substantial, the film is elevated above what would normally fall into cliché and instead we get a beautiful and sincere portrait of small-town America. Highly recommended.
Available now on VOD
For more info about James visit his website at www.irishfilmcritic.com