The main problem with picking up very familiar tropes and running with them is that everyone knows what to expect. Therefore, unless you get it very, very right any faults you have in your structure will be glaring. It is ironic – and slightly counter-intuitive – that the safer option is to actually brave the waves and run with an original idea. You cannot be blamed of not doing something right if you are the completely original author of that something. This may well have been the trouble with Little Accidents. As director Sara Colangelos’ first feature, perhaps shyness was part of the mix. It tries to be a film characterised by shades of grey and deep pathos that describes the complexities of living in a small town, but has neither a completely original take nor a completely flawless execution, and so it ends up drifting in a kind of no man’s land.
Little Accidents is the story of a small mining town. The community is closely knit, none of the relationships are as simple as they look and all the inhabitants’ lives are very much intertwined. This is why a mining accident where 10 men lose their lives has further reaching affects than anyone could have expected. As the authorities begin the inevitable enquiries as to what happened and why, the executives running the mine, the families of the lost miners and Amos Jenkins, (Boyd Holbrook) lone survivor of the accident, all get entangled in an increasingly dark web of intrigue.
Technically, the cinematography does its part admirably; dominated by shades of grey, it sustains a moody and brooding atmosphere throughout. The tone is in keeping with the tragedy that has taken place in the town and forms a good backdrop to the turmoil Amos is going through. Namely, he is caught between two sides, the townsfolk and miners families that are his friends and neighbours and the executives who ran the mine. The idea is that the three sides are drawn progressively closer and closer, until the climax of the film, which hinges largely on Amos’ witness statement as the key piece of evidence in the investigation pertaining to the accident.
In depicting this conflict, the film does a very good job of outlining the relationship Amos has with his own community in the shape of his father and Owen (Jacob Lofland) the son of one of the dead miners. However, it falls flat when it tries to portray the counterbalancing relationship. This is done through a love affair that begins between Amos and the wife of one of the executives working in the mine (Elizabeth Banks). This relationship begins hurriedly and lacks believability throughout. In fact it gives the impression it was written because someone thought the story needed a love interest at all costs. It is principally this missing wing that prevents it from taking off and truly soaring.
One is left with the sensation that the story is a few re-writes away from something truly interesting. This is a real shame because while it had the potential to be a strong film, Little Accidents will doubtless sink into the annals of film history without making much of a splash.
Little Accidents is out on DVD and VOD from the 28th of September 2015