Director: Justin Lerner
Rarely does an imperfect indie film develop enough steam as it rolls along to pull in audiences who may not have been jumping on the train right away, but who will be glad of the ride once it’s over. A cliche analogy perhaps, but sometimes it takes something typical to explain something atypical, and The Automatic Hate is definitely an unusual film. For a small project, and for one that won’t blow you away by any means, it does slide into a very specific pocket with a very specific mood, and what’s more doesn’t veer away from its chosen path. It’s a consistent movie, one that refuses to change or become overly artistic or beg your pardon. It barrels on toward a predetermined goal, dragging audiences along for the journey, and ultimately allowing us to be thankful we were present.
Davis Green has his own problems, without the time or energy to devote to those of his family. He’s a chef at a big city restaurant, is dating a dancer, keeps very busy, and is also just managing to keep it all together. He and his girlfriend Cassie are struggling, especially after a recent, traumatic event, and may be on their way to a breakup. Davis’ father is a renowned psychologist, wanted to his son to be one too, and it still coping with the fact that he chose to be a chef instead. Davis’ mother is fairly silent, his grandfather is in poor health, he has no siblings, and he’s beginning to feel the mounting pressure and loneliness of his day to day existence weigh on his soul.
But Davis has more family than he ever imagined, more relatives that he could grow close to, more peripheral problems that could become his own. A seemingly unstable young woman named Alexis appears at his door, claiming to be his long lost cousin. She says that her father is his father’s brother, an uncle Davis never knew he had. Confronting his dad and grandpa doesn’t help much, they shut the subject down and refuse to talk about it. So, with no other choice left to satisfy his curiosity, Davis drives to rural New York to find this family that he has never met. He soon finds out that there are reasons why the brothers separated all those yeas ago, and that there are some secrets that are best left buried.
The perseverance of this movie should be a matter of pride to the filmmakers, as it stands out as a high point when all is said and done. Automatic Hate is a low-budget, small-name project with no frills or supertwists or gotcha moments. It’s not tremendous, it doesn’t feature the strongest actors in Hollywood, and I doubt that many more than the original handful of people who saw this film are going to jump on the bandwagon. But what this movie has going for it is its determination to walk gamely on no matter what might happen. The style doesn’t change when the action does, the character don’t shy away when the story turns uncomfortable, and, as a whole, the film marches into battle with a stoic resolve that is respectable. That’s a bit of an over-dramatic description, but then again it’s a bit of an over-dramatic plot, though it never seems to notice, pushing through the emotional jungle of its content without a care what might cut.
I don’t mean to give the film a load of backhanded compliments by saying that it isn’t stellar and then talking about its gutty gumption. I only mean to instill in potential audiences that this movie isn’t the second coming, it’s simply a well-made, no nonsense drama whose greatest asset is its audacious attitude. The star is Joseph Cross, who has been around in small roles but mostly stands out as a guy who looks like Dominic Monaghan. Adelaide Clemens in the crazy cousin, and does a fine job, if not a stunning one. And Richard Schiff gets in on the action as well, a man who’ll always be remembered for his great role in The West Wing. Perhaps the actors won’t stand out, perhaps the film never reaches the audiences that the filmmakers would have liked, and perhaps it never receives the credit it deserves. But this film is a strong attempt to tell a solid story, a resilient run at a specific target, and something worth your time.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 Widescreen and shot using an Arri Alexa camera, the video quality of The Automatic Hate is good enough to withstand some scrutiny, but is ultimately nothing to write home about. The picture clarity is fine, with some nice use of color, especially in the country scenes, but other than that there isn’t much that stands out.
Audio – The DVD was done in English 5.1 Surround Sound, with an option of 2.0 Stereo Dolby Digital. Also, commentary with Justin Lerner and Joseph Cross can be accessed from this menu. There are no language options or other audio choices, and the sound quality of the film is about as unremarkable as the video; fine for the media but not outstanding.
Extras – There are many special features on the disc. Twelve minutes of deleted scenes are available, containing a multitude of short cuts. There are seven trailers in the menu: The Automatic Hate, Take Me to the River, Men Go to Battle, Mad Tiger, Breathe, Glassland, Human Capital. You can read about Film Movement from a short paragraph. And one bonus short film has been added for your viewing pleasure; Patriot, directed by Eva Riley and running fifteen minutes, the story of British 11-year-old Hannah and the boy she meets who changes her point of view.
Highly Recommended. It’s not magic, but the dogged determination of The Automatic Hate deserves a look. There’s an established mood here that only becomes more and more intriguing as the film goes on and the story refuses to divert from its path, pushing on through muddy water, refusing to give in to the artsy musing that have become so typical of so many others in this genre. In that way, this movie succeeds, if not exactly picking up awards right and left otherwise. The video is OK, the audio the same, and there are a good many extras on the disc if you’re interested in delving a little deeper. Overall, a job well done, something that won’t go down in the history books, but a smart success nonetheless.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay