Scalene (Breaking Glass Pictures, NR)

scalene 75Scalene tells its story in a fragmented fashion, not only by presenting three versions of the same events, but also by having characters refer to events seen only in fragments.

 

scalene 500

A scalene triangle has three unequal sides and three unequal angles. That’s the idea behind Scalene, a new film directed by Zack Parker. The film gives you three absolutely nonequivalent views of a horrifying event, in a sort of a Rashomon for our times.

Janice (Margo Martindale) is the single mother of a brain-damaged 26-year-old boy, Jakob (Adam Scarimbolo). She loves her son to the point of obsession, but his needs are testing her ability to cope, so she hires a college student, Paige (Hanna Hall), to take care of him for a few hours at a time. Everything seems to be going well, and then the unthinkable happens—or does it? Jakob is accused of raping Paige, and by court order will be removed from Janice’s care and placed in an institution.

Scalene tells its story in a fragmented fashion, not only by presenting three versions of the same events, but also by having characters refer to events seen only in fragments. For this reason, this is a film worth watching more than once, because on repeated viewings you will enjoy noticing all the clues planted by director Zack Parker that you missed the first time.

Scalene looks and sounds great, particularly cinematographer Jim Timmerman’s camera work (shot on the RED ONE). He knows his horror tropes, and more than one sequence will remind you of Hitchcock. The same could be said of the score by the Newton Brothers, which frequently seem to be channeling Bernard Hermann, and I mean that in the best way possible.

What really sells Scalene, though, is the acting. Margo Martindale is always great (she’s the absolute best thing about the overhyped Secretariat, among other things) and she is equally convincing here, whether she’s in devoted mode or crazed mode. Less showy, but equally intriguing, is Hanna Hall, who seems at first to be an idealistic college student from a privileged background who only wants to help the less fortunate, but then gradually reveals that something more disturbing may be going on. Adam Scarimbolo does very well in a difficult role. His character can’t speak, and is quite limited in terms of expressiveness, and yet you feel like you totally understand his world.

The DVD of Scalene comes with a nice package of extras. My favorite is a Q&A session (10:24) at Dances with Films (where it won the Grand Jury Award), in part because it’s a relief to see the three lead characters laughing and joking with each other. That’s a tribute to the film’s power: The actors convince you that their characters are real, not made-up parts in a made-up story. Other extras include a making-of documentary (15:40), clips from the awards ceremony at Dances with Films (2:50), a photo gallery, teaser and theatrical trailers for Scalene, and trailers for three other Broken Glass films. | Sarah Boslaugh

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