Written and Directed by Chad Hartigan
Produced by Cherie Saulter
You’ve probably been reading my reviews for a while. At least I hope you have so you’re aware that my taste in movies tend to run toward action/adventure, science fiction, crime…mostly movies with a lotta running around, yelling, fighting, stuff blowing and swashbuckling derring-do. That doesn’t mean I can’t like and appreciate a movie like THIS IS MARTIN BONNER. Because I do honestly believe that there is just as much heroism in just getting through a day with your self-respect, integrity and dignity intact as in saving the world from a supervillain. It’s just as dangerous making a real and honest emotional connection with another human being as there is braving The Temple of Doom or blowing up The Death Star. The greatest human adventure may simply just be getting through life happy and satisfied with one’s lot in life.
Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn) is at a huge transition period in his life. Having been through a divorce and declaring bankruptcy he’s left behind the life he made for himself in Maryland to craft a new one in Reno, Nevada. He’s got two adult children, both of who seem successful. From the fact that we hear a number of phone calls between Martin and his daughter, she appears to be behind her dad’s change in life. His son, not so much, we gather.
Martin has a new job working for a non-profit organization where he mentors recently released inmates from prison and assists them in easing back into society. And that’s how he meets Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette) released after serving twelve years for manslaughter. Travis is no hardened career criminal. He killed a man while driving drunk and all he wants to do is reconnect with his daughter and get on with what is left of his life. Martin isn’t officially assigned to be his mentor but Travis finds himself drawn more to Martin maybe because he senses that here is a man who can truly help him learn how to jumpstart his life again. Travis is intrigued that Martin is originally from Australia which means he had to come from one country to start a new life here and now he’s all the way across the country starting yet another new life.
If you’re looking for big, bombastic plot-twisting scenes in THIS IS MARTIN BONNER, you won’t get it. This is a very low-key, natural movie that has some truly elegant performances that are marvelously quiet. This kind of acting is really joyous to watch because it’s acting that doesn’t depend on manufactured angst to give the scenes juice and energy. The best scenes in this movie are the ones where people are simply talking to each other, finding out about each other. It’s a movie that prides itself on being so understated and it works.
Considering the short running time of the movie we get to know quite a lot about the two men. Martin played in a rock band back in the 1960s and one of the best and most poignant scenes is when a slightly tipsy Martin plays one of his band’s old records while playing air guitar. I like the air of calm confidence Paul Eenhoorn gives Martin Bonner. Richmond Arquette does some remarkable things with his body language and eyes in this movie. There are scenes where he says nothing and interacts with no other character in the scene but yet we know exactly what he is thinking and feeling. Especially in a scene where Travis has just spent some awkward time with his daughter. They were supposed to spend the whole day together but she elects to leave early. For maybe a minute the camera stays on Travis and in that minute, we see an entire range of emotions and thoughts going through this man’s mind and heart while he just stands there. Now that’s acting.
THIS IS MARTIN BONNER is available on Amazon Prime and I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a movie about regular people trying to live regular lives, about men trying to be fathers, about people trying to make genuine friendships with each other and there is something touching, noble and undeniably heroic about all of that.