TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: Just over twenty years ago, Macaulay Culkin attempted to break away from any semblance of his child actor days with the thriller The Good Son directed by Joseph Ruben. In that film it is revealed that “Henry,” played by Culkin, killed his little brother Richard. For just a second in the film, we get a glimpse of Richard, pictured in a frame by Macaulay’s then little brother Rory, the youngest of the seven Culkin children. Who knew that parents Kit and Patricia had saved the best and most talented for last? In writer/director Lou Howe‘s darkly constructed thriller Gabriel, the young Rory Culkin not only manages to build a multi-layered and fascinating character, but allows himself to be among one of the most promising and gifted lead actors seen this year.
Magnetically charged and full of suspense for nearly every moment, Gabriel is about a troubled young man (named Gabriel), who is convinced that reuniting with his first love will bring the stability and love he so deeply craves. When his attempts find missteps at nearly every turn, beginning with objections from his family, Gabriel begins to unravel.
Director Lou Howe makes his feature film debut with this twisted and terrifying look into the mind of an unstable young man. Howe lets the moments linger for what feels like a cinematic eternity, that brings the tension to the breaking point. You’ll live at the edge of your seat. Assisted with the dedicated and surprising performance by Rory Culkin, the two embark down a path that will leave you breathless. The 60’s had Anthony Perkins in Psycho, the 70’s had Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, and now in 2010’s, we have Rory Culkin. A darkly charged performance that is both fascinating and secure, his “Gabriel” has potential to be looked back upon for years to come.
He isn’t the only player that makes his mark. Playing Meredith, Deidre O’Connell, probably best known for playing Tom Wilkinson’s cheated-on wife in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, takes the suffering and supportive mother role to new heights. O’Connell envelops the essence of loving with fear. Desperately wanting to keep her son with her on the outside but aware of what a free Gabriel could elicit on the world is just the tip of her internal struggle. O’Connell joins the ranks of great character actresses such as Jacki Weaver and Ann Dowd working today. An actress who should be given more opportunities to flourish in Hollywood. It’s the best supporting turn this year yet.
Playing Matthew, Gabriel’s brother, David Call rises to the occasion in nearly every scene he’s in. Showing restraint but frustration as he tackles on the daunting task of caring for his erratic sibling. Relegated to one scene each, Emily Meade, Alexia Rasmusen, and Louisa Krause are not forgotten as bright sparkles in this foggy story that’s full of mystery and uncertainty. Lynn Cohen also has a very tender and powerful scene that gives the audience some great insight into Gabriel’s mind. I found her just as compelling.
Gabriel is a mesmerizing motion picture. Definitely not for everyone, the film should be able to find a nitch with a key audience that will worship Rory Culkin. Gabriel’s actions are quite unpredictable and could make some too uncomfortable. While I’m perfectly satisfied with the ending resolution, as the film continuously builds to this “one moment” from Gabriel, that some may feel differently. If anything, this sets up a long line for Howe’s next feature film, whatever that may be. In the end, Gabriel is one of the most frightening and haunting character studies since Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo. It shows the unpredictable and fragile nature of mental illness that we haven’t seen before. Intriguing and hooked from moment one, Gabriel is a must-see film.
CLIP FROM THE FILM:
Director: Lou Howe
Screenwriter: Lou Howe
Producer: Ben Howe, Luca Borghese
Editor: Jane Rizzo
Cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield
Executive Producer: Ben Howe, Luca Borghese
Composer: Patrick Higgins
Co-Producer: Allison Rose Carter
Cast: Rory Culkin, David Call, Deirdre O’Connell, Emily Meade, Louisa Krause, Lynn Cohen, Alexia Rasmussen