DVD Movie Review | Little Accidents (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 28.09.2015

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Little Accidents (UK Rating: 15)

Sometimes a film just slips through the net. It gets festival screenings, perhaps even an award nod or two, and then everything grinds to a halt. Months later, it turns up on DVD - just like Little Accidents, which is released this week. Screenings at Sundance last year, as well as London Sundance in 2014, and even an Independent Spirit Award nomination for its screenplay, didn't earn it UK distribution so, some 18 months later, here it is on DVD.

That is not to say this story of the effect of a pit disaster on a small mining community is ill-suited to the smaller screen, since it's actually a good fit, and hopefully this release will mean the film reaches a wider audience. The disaster has killed a group of miners, all of whom live in the same town in West Virginia. The sole survivor, Amos (Boyd Holbrook), has been left physically and mentally damaged as a result, but he's not the only one affected. The families of the dead miners have been left devastated and an internal enquiry at the mining company threatens to destroy the lives of its managers. Then the teenage son of one of them disappears, bringing the community closer together again in tragedy.

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Director and writer, Sara Colangelo, concentrates on three pivotal characters to show the effects of the accident, and, despite the title, it's not a little one; its effects ripple out like a stone hitting water. Amos is under pressure: as his ailing father predicts, everybody wants a piece of him. The grieving relatives want him to testify against the mining company so they can get compensation, while the management, and other miners, want him to speak on their behalf so that the pit remains open and jobs are preserved. He can only sit on the fence for so long.

Then there's Diana (Elizabeth Banks), the mother of T. J., the missing boy. Her husband is a senior manager at the mine, and likely to be held responsible for the accident. Initially, they are united in their search for their son but, as time goes on, the cracks in their relationship widen and she feels lonely and desperate, and there's Owen (Jacob Lofland, currently also in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), whose father died in the mine and also knew T J. The effect of the tragedy on the town's young people is illustrated when the boys fight about it and, in another less-than-little accident, T. J. ends up dead. Owen conceals the body and the truth from everybody but then, out of guilt, does odd jobs for Diana after she wins his services in a promise auction.


 
Linking the three characters together, and using them to represent the whole community, gives the film a strong structure, but the addition of an implausible affair between Amos and Diana is just one step too far. Her motives are understandable, but her choice of man less so and the storyline simply doesn't need it. What is powerful, however, is that the accidents are never shown on screen. The focus is purely on the aftermath and the actual events are left to the audience's imagination.  Director and writer Sara Colangelo handles it all with sensitivity - although perhaps too sensitively, because she tends to dwell on certain scenes and the end result is just too long.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Going straight to DVD used to be the kiss of death for a film, but the smaller screen brings out the intimacy and intensity of Little Accidents. Despite its length and a needlessly over-complicated storyline, this small and sombre study of a town in crisis, told through three of its residents, has more than enough power to make it worth watching.

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