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Review by Hannah Burkett
Films rarely touch upon the realities of being a new mother: the sleepless nights, small hands insisting on touching everything and the strain a child can put on a marriage. Kristin Swanberg’s second feature film, Empire Builder, dives into the realities of raising a child and uses simple camera angles paired with beautiful scenery to create a memorable film experience.
Empire Builder is the story of a young woman, Jenny, who goes to Montana to settle in a cabin she and her husband bought. With her is her baby son. When she arrives she meets Kevin, a worker hired by her husband to fix up the exterior of the house. Jenny begins an affair with Kevin, and she finds herself questioning how safe her new home is for her baby. As the plot progresses, Kevin becomes more of a façade; he begins to take on the role of the husband, but without giving away too much in the end, you wonder if Kevin is actually lives up to the “dream guy” Jenny painted him to be.
This film is not a love story, however. The story does touch on the rocky relationship Jenny has with her husband and the possibilities of the affair with Kevin, but the real narrative is the relationship of a mother and her child.
The dialogue between characters within the film is limited, but Swanberg does an excellent job of using fixed camera angles and ambient sound to feed emotions into the scene. There are moments when some question if what is happening is actually real or a dream created by Jenny. The limited musical score makes the film seem more in the documentary style rather than fictional, which only intensifies these questions.
Empire Builder is a quiet look into the ups and downs of being a wife, a lover, and a mother.
Vox rating: VVVV
THE RATING SYSTEM
VVVVV = AWESOME! SEE IT TWICE
VVVV = DEFINITELY GO SEE IT
VVV = HMM… IT’S OKAY
VV = EH… DVD MAYBE?
V = DON’T BOTHER
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