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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.28.19] thriller drama

Billy and Carly are a happily married couple who have relocated to San Bernardino for work. They've bought a house which Billy is remodelling while also documenting the entire process for his newly minted YouTube channel. The pair are settling into their new home and getting acquainted with the neighbors but unbeknownst to Carly, Billy is getting militia training from his new friends and pretty soon, the pair are dealing with more than just neighbors with opposing political views.

James Kaelan and Blessing Yen's America the Beautiful is a marvel. It opens with Billy and Carly on a mountain with Carly running towards a man who is being beaten senseless by another man. The beater takes off when she comes running to help the man on the ground and while Carly saves the day, Billy films the entire thing, constantly screaming at Carly to come back. Thought it's not initially apparent, this scene is critical to our understanding of these characters and it it brilliantly foreshadows the events to come.

The video clips range in length from a few seconds to a few minutes and though at first disorienting, they quickly fall into a rhythm and begin to build a picture of what's happening in Billy and Carly's life though really, this is about Billy since we see the events unfold through the lens of his camera. This is the story of a seemingly regular guy who finds himself the newest member of the local militia and the events that get him there.

America the Beautiful captures the current political climate of the US and how it affects the day-to-day life of individuals but more than that, it provides a realistic look at the radicalization of an individual and how easily everyday events can and are used to sway not only political opinion but actions.

Kaelan, who also acts as editor on the film, does a brilliant job the editing which never feels truncated though we're constantly moving from scene to scene and seeing these people's lives in snippets. There's just enough story to provide not only context but also a real feeling of who these people are and Kaelan and Yen do so by incorporating and using preconceptions to their advantage. Also surprising is that in spite of the fact that this is told entirely through cell phone video, there's very little shaky-cam action.

Clocking in at just under an hour, America the Beautiful is barely a movie but it's a hugely successful one; at once a smart, insightful, and sobering look at a politically charged America while also being a taught, at times funny, thriller with a powerful ending.

A must see.

Recommended Release: Mosaic

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ZAPHOD (3 years ago) Reply

"politically charged" Gee, I can hardly contain my excitement.

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