Rift (2017) [Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival 2017]

A man is receives an odd call from his ex and goes to join him in a remote cabin.  As they work through their issues and loneliness, they are haunted by something that may or may not be supernatural in nature.

Writer/director Erlingur Thoroddsen takes an interesting subject of two exes spending time together after a distressed call and adds potential supernatural elements to get an odd at times result of captivating slowness.  The characters he creates are very human here and feel like anyone the viewer could know.  The themes explored are very human and common with love, loneliness, sadness, and what makes people connect with each other.  Here the bulk of the story and these themes are worked out between two men who used to be together, which does make it a gay story, but that is completely irrelevant and the subjects and themes are universal to human beings.  The way the story develops and what they discuss are things that could happen to anyone and everyone.  The film’s themes are what make it a powerful watch.  However, the slowness of the film may turn some people off as it takes forever to get to a point in a grey and weary atmosphere.  This does however work well for the film, making it one of the slowest burns in film this year set in the nicest locations that is used beautiful and establishes the loneliness perfectly.

The film’s protagonists are played with delicacy and nuance, giving them a reality that brings the film into a level of believability that works wonders with the story and its uncertainties.  In the leads of Gunnar and Einar are Björn Stefánsson and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson respectively and they work together in a natural way that gives the impression they are indeed ex-lovers and know everything about each other, leading to interesting back and forth between the two may in be friendly or annoyed.  Their performances show that less is more, and that human connection is key.

The story and performances evolve in scenery that is just stunning, beautiful, and filled with grey sadness that fits the film perfectly.  These images are created by cinematographer John Wakayama Carey who frames the near emptiness of Iceland in a way that pulls the viewer in and keeps them fascinated.  The images not only fit the story and the performances, they almost become their own character.  The film has a nice balance of indoors and outdoors scenes that create this dichotomy that shows the togetherness and loneliness as two different being in this setting.  The film works these settings and images in a way that creates something that looks almost like a series of photographs in a museum that tell a story of their own.

Rift is a beautifully crafted film that tells a story of loneliness, love lost, and searching for meaning in life.  It’s visually stunning, most grey with carefully selected colors which helps make the loneliness come across powerfully.  It’s a film that takes its time, maybe a bit too much time in spots, to build characters that feel real and human, with feelings and connections.  The horror elements are few and far in-between but they are definitely there and are not all what they seem.  This all leads to a fascinating super slow-burn of a film that works if one is willing to give it the time to build its emotions and themes which it does with talent.  It’s a long, very long film that feels it at times but it absolutely worth it in the end.

Rift is playing at the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival on Sunday, October 1st. Tickets can be purchased at https://filmfreeway.com/festival/PhiladelphiaUnnamedFilmFestival/tickets