Movie Review: (1997) A Better Place

Ryan and Barret talk while walking down a roadA Better Place
Directed by Vincent Pereira
1997, View Askew Productions

If you can’t remember, high school was painfully awkward for most parties; it was rife with fighting and bickering, especially between differing social classes. At least, that’s the image put forward in A Better Place, a 1997 film directed by one-time director Vincent Pereira.

Produced in association with Kevin Smith’s View Askew, A Better Place isn’t always visually dazzling, but its simplicity allows more subtle elements to fall into place. The vibrancy of some of the colors used and the straightforward editing and cinematography combine to create memorable imagery that strongly supports the film’s most vital asset: dialogue.

Though Barret, the film’s protagonist, may visibly fit the awkward-nerd-in-high-school persona, dialogue reveals unusual amounts of character depth. Pereira has a style and sense of development that escapes many, and to find he’s directed only this sole film is unnerving, especially considering fellows like Uwe Boll and Michael Bay can’t seem to stop finding funding.

Ryan and a land-owner argueA Better Place feels sincere, honest, genuine — all those adjectives usually used to describe successful but unusual films, the ones that just don’t fit the usual molds.

Musically, the soundtrack is effective, if unconventional. The low, ambient tones effect tense moments, but it’s something more than just that: Maybe it’s the shaky camera movements, maybe it’s the dialogue that doesn’t always fit the situation, but there’s something consistently unnerving about the film.

Sure, this movie isn’t always happy, and it’s not really the type of movie that will attract the usual movie-goers, but it doesn’t pretend to be everything for everyone. With quality dialogue, interesting music, and a compelling plot, A Better Place is well worth the small investment it takes to watch attentively.

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