“Oxenfree” Is A Nice Balance Of Drama, Fantasy, And Brotherly Love



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Posted September 15, 2017 by

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Movies about brotherhood (or sisterhood for that matter) are tricky to pull off. The mood and emotional pull of the story depend so much on the actors involved having not just on-screen chemistry, but the ability to make it seem like they have countless shared memories and a deep understanding of each other as people. Without that feeling of lifelong familiarity, the story fails and the movie falls flat. That is fortunately not the case in Dan Glaser’s film “Oxenfree”. Despite an occasionally choppy script, that has the three brothers using each other’s names way more than real bothers do, the clever ideas and ability of the three actors to seem like they’ve been on hundreds of fantastical journeys together make this a fun, imaginative film.

Aaron (Steve Maloney) invites his two adopted brothers back to the country cabin that they spent much of their childhood at. All dealing with the death of their father, and years of unresolved bad feelings, the three brothers are not exactly happy to be together, at first. The oldest, Roy (Paul Vonasek) immediately begins the bickering by calling Benjamin (Timothy R. Lane) out on missing their father’s funeral. Aaron quickly mentions that although Roy attended the funeral, he did so in a drunken stupor.

These early moments of discord are the film’s weakest. Maloney, Vonasek, and Lane don’t seem to be in their comfort zone while bickering, but do a better job of portraying the individual pain each of them is dealing with. Aaron, unbeknownst to his brothers is dealing with a life-threatening illness, Roy has problems with his marriage, and Benjamin is dealing with constant anxiety. These inner issues are more effective than the sibling rivalry, when it comes to making us care about the characters. Each of these men need an escape, and whether they know it or not, that escape resides in their childhood, imaginary kingdom.

Once the brothers get over their differences, and start to recall (and relive) adventures from their youth, the film finds its soul. It’s easy to tell that writer Timothy Meyer is much more comfortable writing fantasy-based whimsy, and “Oxenfree” becomes immensely enjoyable once it takes that turn. Fighting off imaginary pirates with super soakers and slingshots gives way to the brothers facing a much more feared monster from their childhood… the Grumpaboo. They have to work together to defeat the fabled beast, that their father told them campfire stories of. Sometimes all it takes to rekindle familial love is a happy memory.

Glaser overcomes budgetary restrictions, which can be hell on a fantasy film, to create something that is sincere and warm. The scenes of imaginary adventure reminded me of games my own brothers and I played, when we were growing up. Being able to relate to a movie on that level makes watching it so much more enjoyable.




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