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Friday, August 25, 2017

OXENFREE -- Movie Review by Porfle

Sort of a guy flick with feels, OXENFREE (Candy Factory, 2016) takes the cake for not letting on what kind of movie it's going to be at first and then surprising us with something that resembles a cross between LORD OF THE FLIES and "Kick the Can."

It opens at the secluded family cabin where Aaron (Steven Molony) awaits the arrival of his stepbrothers Roy (Paul Vonasek) and Benjamin (Timothy R. Lane).  Aaron clearly suffers from some health difficulty--an oxygen tank is never far from his reach--which he will hide from the others. 

We sense a strained relationship between him and both the burly, somewhat overbearing Roy and the more mild-mannered Benjamin stemming from old childhood hurts that have never healed. 

Their efforts to overcome them are awkward but earnest as they spend an evening around the campfire, relating old stories, tall tales, and memories of Aaron's biological father who adopted the other two boys before he was born.

But just as it appears as though their differences may be irreconcilable, Aaron sets his master plan into motion: to lure them, via a crumbling old map, across the lake and deep into the forest where they once built a makeshift fort and pretended to be heroic adventure characters. 

Roy and Benjamin arrive at the site of Fort Buttkicker, now rebuilt by Aaron and ready for action, and find themselves gradually drawn back into the world of make-believe that once captivated them.

That's when OXENFREE becomes an odd, almost surreal world of super-soakers, slingshots, war paint, imaginary battles, and random cosplay in which these three grown men gradually surrender themselves to a totally immersive childhood fantasy that brings them together, free from the constraints of adulthood and the outside world.

Director Dan Glaser (PINCHING PENNY, PETTY CRIMES) and a lean script by Timothy J. Meyer handle all of this well, without actually getting overly cute or silly with the idea. 

And neither do they pile on the maudlin sentiment when the brothers suddenly face the harsh reality behind their wild-child weekend and are forced to come clean with each other about old family grievances and other pressing matters.

Any more I dare not reveal, save to say that I found OXENFREE much more thoughtful, contemplative, and evocative than I originally expected.  Which is probably just the way Roy and Benjamin feel after this strangely liberating excursion into childhood abandon which Aaron has in store for them.  And us.


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