Uncertain

 

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A portrait of an American community with a detailed look at three of its inhabitants.

 

Uncertain

 

The title of this documentary feature is taken from the name of the place in Texas close to the Louisiana     border where it was filmed. The local sheriff is aware of how out of the way it is and how easily overlooked, factors that may explain why it can only claim to have 94 inhabitants. In this context, even though the joke may be one of which those living there have grown weary, one sees the quirky, comic possibilities of a film that will quickly introduce us to such local landmarks as The Church of Uncertain and the Uncertain Flea Market. But, in spite of these aspects, this film by Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands is only comic in passing. Indeed, by putting the emphasis on three individuals, Uncertain echoes - and to my mind surpasses - the work of the much admired Alma Har'el whose Bombay Beach (2011) similarly featured three contrasted people living in a single community.

 

Uncertain has a slow, almost wordless start as it cuts back and forth between night and day, but after this hesitant beginning it soon grabs and holds our attention. There is a real threat to Uncertain on account of the fact that an aquatic weed is choking the lake and thus discouraging the tourism that had helped to keep the place going. But the prime focus of the film is on the three inhabitants whose contrasted tales are intercut yet which balance each other and function smoothly together. We meet Henry Lewis, a black widower aged 74, a guide to the area who perturbs his family when he takes an interest in a somewhat younger woman ready to accept his gifts but not any notion he might have about marriage. Wayne Smith is more of a loner who has become obsessive about trying to shoot the dominant hog known as Mr Ed that is keeping other animals from the area and the third figure is the much younger Zach Warren who suffers from diabetes but who, looking to his future, registers the lack of potential brides in Uncertain and gambles on finding a job in Austin instead.

 

The natural manner of these people in front of the camera suggests the ability of the filmmakers to bond with their subjects and our own involvement is increased by the eventual revelation of how the two older men have had to overcome past dramas in their lives (this non-fiction carries a reminder of Manchester by the Sea). Without it ever feeling forced, the film suggests a common theme between the three tales: the need to be sustained by a faith, whether it be in yourself, in God or in dedication to a mission as in Wayne's case. These personal portraits, presented without any condescension, may speak of an oddly named place in America, but they also stand as individual yet universally relevant reports on the human condition.             

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

  

Featuring  Henry Lewis, Wayne Smith, Zach Warren. 

 

Dir Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, Pro Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, Screenplay Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, Ph Ewan McNicol, Ed Ewan McNicol and and Marco Perez, Music Daniel Hart.

 

Lucid Inc.-Lucid Inc.
82 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 10 March 2017. No Cert.