A Thousand Miles Behind

 

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A film of some note which may get different responses from different sets of viewers.

 
Thousand Miles Behind, A

Jeffrey Doornbos and Vanessa Christelle

 

The written quotation seen at the start of this feature by Nathan Wetherington comes from C. S. Lewis and it gives notice of the film's serious intentions. It concludes with these words: "Sorrow turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map, but a history". In the context of this piece it might be thought that 'grief' would have been more apt than 'sorrow', for Wetherington's aim (he is writer and co-editor as well as director) is to devote the entire work to one man's struggle to overcome the emotional shock of losing his devoted wife (Bre Blair) and their young daughter (Payton Lilee Glasgow) in a car accident caused by a drunken driver. The bereaved man, who is rarely off screen, is Preston Avery played by Jeffrey Doombos. The film's first scenes show his initial reactions and thereafter we see how he takes a bike journey through California on his own and how in time this helps him to start to adjust. It's a history less of steady progress than one of fits and starts but one that ultimately finds him back home so that the film can close on a hopeful note.

 

Wetherington is an actor himself but this is the first feature film he has made as a director and its opening scenes suggest that he has exceptional potential. Without showing the fatal accident, the film immediately takes us into Preston's grief-stricken world. Here, and later on too, Jeffrey Doombos proves to be well up to the demands that the film places on him, but it is Wetherington's ability to get inside Preston's head that makes it so impressive. These early and finely edited scenes are often very short and, with an acute use of natural sounds (hardly any music at this stage) and visual compositions which use the screen space to express the emptiness which now surrounds Preston, they are evidence of a very special talent at work. Wetherington is a film maker not afraid to embrace something close to minimalism and a man possessed throughout with the courage of his convictions.

 

While this approach may appeal to some viewers much more than to others, it is perhaps a paradox that once A Thousand Miles Behind becomes a road movie it may win over an audience initially doubtful about it whereas for me it is the sequences before Preston mounts his bike that work best. One reason for wondering if I am in a minority in this respect is the fact that the film has won awards as Best Feature at Motorcycle Film Festivals in Rome, Portland and Nice. I should perhaps confess that I did not previously know of the existence of festivals of this specialised kind, but the film's successes there prove that Wetherington's road trip has strong appeal for those who will seek out his movie with that aspect in mind. I should certainly add that I do not find these scenes inept and I can admire the portrayal by Vanessa Christelle of a girl of character who, encountered on the road, becomes a help-mate to Preston without the screenplay turning her into a typical love interest. Nevertheless, with music and songs entering in for these biking scenes, I feel that the film has become more conventional, a tale in which the writing is occasionally a little too glib to convince and one which here feels that it is being told from the outside. It is the first third and the intelligent way in which it makes us experience Preston's feelings as though from within that marks out A Thousand Miles Behind as something special and identifies Wetherington as a director of real promise.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jeffrey Doornbos, Vanessa Christelle, Bre Blair, Patton Lilee Glasgow, Greg Evigan, Scott Kinworthy, Jeffrey Nicholas Brown, Sonora Johnson, K.C. Wolf, Luci MacNair, Benjamin Forster.

 

Dir Nathan Wetherington, Pro Nathan Wetherington, Screenplay Nathan Wetherington, Ph Keith Dunkerley, Ed Stephan Murray, Nathan Wetherington and Vanessa Campbell, Music Sten Bowen.

 

Lemoyne Street Pictures-Sharp Teeth Films.
80 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 17 August 2020. Available on VoD. Cert. 15.