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Brilliant Mistakes - Wharton Executive Education. Buy Brilliant Mistakes - Microsoft Store. Note: This review contains spoilers.
I recently saw this film while visiting a friend in Stratford-Upon-Avon and they had purchased the DVD online at Amazon, it had taken a while to receive so the title became a running joke, maybe they made a brilliant mistake and we were never meant to see this film." Truly, we didn't know what to expect as it looked like a love story replete with the typical "Vow" overtones and "devoted guy" story line. But this turned out to be quite a surprise.
The main characters, Marcus and Gabby (pre-accident) are seen through some flashbacks, and at times, can come off as a bit saccharin sweet. But, I guess the proper way to encapsulate their love in three-minute bursts is to do so in a linear, I love you, we're in love, don't mess with our love, sort of fashion. For some odd reason, it all works.
There are some great, truly great, performances by the funny and quirky Cheryl McMahon who plays Janet Hayes, the "grief counselor from hell, and Christopher Clawson who convincingly portrays a deeply troubled writer, Elliot. Aria McKenna, Daniel Dambroff and Trisha Carr, all pull their own weight, with moments of brilliance and some rare, unfortunate moments of stiffness. But again, a tight, highly talented ensemble, most likely plagued by a tight budget and the pitfalls of indie filmmaking. Shockingly enough, this film truly does not look or feel like an indie film. It looks like it was shot, directed and edited by seasoned people who cared about the characters and overall message of loyalty and love.
So, in a (Elise McNamara) is in a car accident on her way to work ( I'm guessing early in the morning since she works at a bakery. Her boyfriend Marcus (Daniel Dambroff) finds out while jogging, probably before his school day begins as a teacher in what appears to be a prep school of some sort. He is torn by this event and must rise to the challenge of doing the right thing. He was going to ask her to marry him, now he is suddenly confronted with being a caregiver. He is conflicted, somewhat, by his need for comfort and is possibly giving the wrong signals to Gabby's mom, whom is overwhelmed with grief and drowns her sorrows in wine and self-pity. In her confusion, she practically molests Marcus, while her daughter is in a vegetative state in the next room. This happens a few times. It seems that everything goes wrong for Marcus.
Marcus is made to jump some terribly high hurdles, some that seem a bit impossible in real life, but as itself life will have it, they happen at the worst time and in ways I've read about in true life stories. He is adamant to reject Sandra's advances as his moral compass straightens up. As an audience, we are in much need of relief and a reality check, and luckily Gabby's younger/older sister ( we couldn't tell) comes to rescue and voices our disgust with Sandra's actions. Well-played by the goth, edgy sister. Go Erin! We've all had enough of Sandra's blurred boundaries.
Then at the right moment, Elliot, the writer, comes to one of the grief meetings and lights up the room, in a seemingly homo-erotic way. One that didn't necessarily make me uncomfortable, but simply had me and my friends thinking, what's up with this guy? I guess that was the writers intent. Elliot takes Marcus under his wing, they both share a passion for writing and he infuses the film with an upbeat persona that slowly gets darker and darker as time goes on. He gets these intermittent headaches that cause us all to believe he is ill. But what happened is worse.
* spoiler* As Marcus builds trust in Elliot, as we feel comfortable that Elliot finally rescues Marcus from Sandra, we discover that Elliot was hiding something all along and was the cause of the accident that ran Gabby off the road and caused her to hit a tree. During the film, Elliot is visibly consumed with guilt. Earlier when at a restaurant, we see a foreshadowing of this when he asks Marcus where the accident occurred. but it is played rather brilliantly by Christopher Clawson, who does not lead the audience on in any way. In fact, the character himself does not truly come to terms with it until he realizes he may not get anywhere with Marcus, either sexually or as a friend. It's possible Elliot has a history of letting people down, it's possible he simply embraces Marcus to replace his younger brother, who was met with an untimely death at 11 years of age. It's also possible Elliot is in writer-mode the whole time, researching his next novel. These are all subtle things then screenwriter and director created flawlessly.
When Marcus finds out Elliot was involved, we see a different side of Marcus. One that is truly disappointed in the human race as a whole. The end, which I won't spoil, offers some speck of hope for this character.
When the film was over, our friends looked at one another and almost simultaneously said, intense." The film was truly intense and it personally restored my faith in American-made indie films. And kudos to the director, Paul Brighton, whom I assume is a Brit, or posing as a Brit, on the other side of the pond. Either way he did a stunning job along with his cinematographer and crew.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable film that I'd recommend in an instant.

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