‘Down River’ – Newport Beach Film Festival Movie Review

‘Down River’ – Newport Beach Film Festival Movie Review

An emotionally stirring story of three women teetering on the edge between creative breakthroughs & personal breakdowns, and the older woman they rely on for support & inspiration.

Down River“Down River” is the story of four women living as neighbors in same apartment complex. Three of the women are young artists in differing artistic disciplines. Fawn (Gabrielle Miller) is the actress. Aki (Jennifer Spence) is the artist. Harper (Colleen Rennison) is the singer. Each person is on the verge either of breaking big professionally or breaking down emotionally. It is three women connected by a fourth. Pearl (Helen Shaver) is the older woman, whom the other three rely on for guidance, support and inspiration.

The three women struggle with their own fears that keep them for living to their full potential. Fawn is not exactly sure where her acting career is taking her, that keeps her from pursuing a personal life with her boyfriend. Aki is afraid she does not have what it takes to succeed as an artist, especially when everyone tells her she does not. Harper, the singer, is afraid of being close to anyone and pushes people way with her self-destructive behavior.

Pearl, on the other hand, has in a way already lived the lives of the other three. When diagnosed with cancer, Pearl begins to see the personal roadblocks the others are placing in front of themselves. Each person is blocking themselves from reading their full potential as artists and people.

In all honestly, I was not expecting myself to enjoy the film as much as I did. As a man, ‘Down River’ can be easily passed off as another ‘chick flick of the traveling pants club.’ But as much as this movie is about four women, who allow fear to kill their creativity, the lessons that each woman learns is just as applicable to anyone, male or female.

What separates ‘Down River’ from becoming a chick-flick is that each character is written as real people by writer/director Ben Ratner. We may not personally know a lot of artists, actors and singers. We all have known or been people who have let the fear of failure or the unknown stop us from them from accomplishing great things in life. Inspired by his longtime friends, actress Babz Chula, Ratner brings to life the story of four women, who have to ultimately face their fears, otherwise crawl back into their shells and wonder “what if.”

Along with an inspired script from Ratner, “Down River” boasts an amazing cast in Miller, Spence, Rennison and Shaver. I have come to learn that they are all really, really famous in Canada. Also, the original music by Kevin House sneaks up on you throughout the movie. It’s worth checking out the soundtrack.

“Down River” is part of the Woman and Film series at the Newport Beach Film Festival. There is still another chance to see the movie on Tuesday, April 29 at 11:30 am. The screening I attended was small. This movie deserves more people to attend.

The Verdict


The Good: Inspired writing from Ben Ratner | Great acting from cast

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