imagineNATIVE: Among Ravens

imagineNATIVE - Among Ravens 2

In Among Ravens the territorial and scared nature of birds serves as metaphor for the characters within the film. Our guide through this forest of human emotion is Joey (Johnny Sequoyah), a precocious young girl who lives with her mother Wendy (Amy Smart) and stepdad Ellis (Joshua Leonard). Keeping with their 4th of July tradition, Wendy and Ellis are set to host their annual family and friends retreat at their lakeside property. The guests include Joey’s biological father Saul (Russell Friedenberg), a famous author, and his current wife Emma (Victoria Smurfit). When Wendy’s brother brings along his socially awkward friend, Chad (Will McCormack), the family thinks nothing of it at first. However, it is only a matter of time before Chad’s presence begins to unravel the family dynamics in unexpected ways.

Among Raven is one of those films whose familiarity is both a gift and a bit of a curse. By all accounts it should not work, considering the conventional premise and moments of loopy humour, but it does. Its charm comes from the genuine sense of emotion at the film’s core. Strip away the unnecessary quirky moments and a rather interesting character study reveals itself underneath. Directors Russell Friedenberg, who also wrote the script, and Randy Redroad find plenty of gold to mine when tapping into the theme of being true to one’s self. Almost every character is living some sort of lie. Saul flaunts his intellectual superiority, but his boasting only serves to mask his true fears. Wendy’s second marriage carries the shine of a picture perfect couple, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is more about financial stability than actual love.

Friedenberg’s script does a good job of providing his actors with enough meaty material to chew on. Will McCormack is very strong as the emotionally unstable Chad. Though Friedneberg leaves a lot of Chad’s past a mystery, he offers just enough nuggets to ensure that Chad is a fully realized character. It also helps to sell the rich friendship that forms between Joey and Chad. While it would have been nice if characters such as Saturn Moon (Castille Landon) and Emma had more to do in the film, the bulk of the cast get their individual moments to shine. Despite the brief moments where the film veers dangerously close to slapstick – the scene where Saul chases down Will (Christian Campbell) immediately comes to mind – the film manages maintain the audience’s interest throughout. In the end, Among Ravens is a surprisingly engaging character study of a family in search of the version of themselves that they have lost.