“MAJOR ARCANA” is a drama screening at this years Newport Beach Film Festival written and directed by Josh Melrod. The story centers on a nomadic carpenter that returns to his small-town home after the passing of his father. With a small inheritance this man will begin building a cabin by hand deep in the woods in an attempt to rebuild his life. To free himself from the family cycle of addiction and poverty. Something that will be tested when a woman from his past comes back into his life.
When summing up this film in a single word one routinely comes to mind. That being unassuming because this story-line delivers a string of emotional layers that are deeply rooted in the focal characters. Yet the narrative explores these elements with both a subtly, and a continual progression that creates a lasting impact because of how genuine it all feels. There isn’t an abundance of expositional dialogue to set the foundation for this main character and his past which I appreciated. These aspects are naturally discovered through the actions and events the main characters experience and through the conversations between them. It results in a film that grabbed my curiosity and held on to it with an intriguing sequence of events.
Watching this man try to re-build his life while building a cabin with his hands was fascinating. There are distractions that both subconsciously and blatantly attempt to lure him into the man he was in the past. But his determination is resilient which I found to be inspiring while watching. The story has a methodical pace, but it also has a fluid one. Building this cabin was blended nicely with the main plot-line of this man and his past demons being conflicted by a woman who still embraces those demons. He truly has feelings for this woman, and it creates many moments of unpredictability as the subtle temptations slowly elevate. Will he succumb, or will he prevail in creating a new, sober life for himself was a question that kept me on edge throughout and it was compelling to see evolve.
The lead performance from Ujon Tokarski was everything this story-line needed. He never felt like he was acting as he carried a sincere demeanor in the role. He was troubled, heavily conflicted, and tormented. However he was also spirited, and motivated as well as continually hopeful and Tokarski captured this all with ease. He was a man that has done some things that justifiably make him an unlikable person. But he also doesn’t hide from his mistakes. He admits to them and holds himself accountable. He uses the wrongs he’s done as motivation to move forward and with the performance of Tokarski I was able to invest in it all. Tara Summers comes in with a great performance as well. There were layers of conflict to her character that I felt Summers was able to convey in a small amount of time. She also captured a very natural chemistry with Tokarski to sell me on their turbulent past and undeniable love for one another.
Josh Melrod crafts a tightly written script that doesn’t waste time. Conversations between the characters have meaning as they continually build backdrop with few wasted minutes. And Melrod steps behind the camera to craft a beautiful film. The natural lighting was perfect for the outdoor scenes as this man builds a cabin over several months. The locations were perfectly framed to immerse me in the settings with the character and it connected me to the freedom he felt while he was out there which I enjoyed. This was a quaint film that will sneak up and grab your attention. It’s down-to-earth with a closing that is the definition of being both subtle, yet heavily impactful that I think will certainly evoke thought long after the end credits roll.