REVIEW: Ballast

Ballast (dir. Lance Hammer)
Carlton Cinema. December 6th, 2008.
JimMyron Ross, Tara Diggs & Micheal J. Smith Sr.

Every year has that independent masterpiece: low budget, but highly acclaimed. Ballast is that film for 2008.

The film takes place in Mississippi, giving the film a cold, abandoned feel. The consistency of Lance Hammer’s pragmatic view on life in the outskirts of populated civilization gives Ballast a very hollow coating, although not that far deep in the middle is a never bumptious story, but rather a disturbingly honest insight into the human condition under painfully real conditions.

A man commits suicide leaving three people traumatized; shocked into doing things without thinking.

We open on a kid named James (JimMyron Ross) walking through vacant fields. Crows are in a group and he chased them off – from this impression and childish act we get a sensation that James is a typical child with a juvenile mindset. We later learn that this kid isn’t typical, but quite out of the ordinary.

Cut to a man named Lawrence (Micheal J. Smith Sr.) sitting in alone in a room staring blankly at a television with muffled sound; his door is being banged on by a neighbor. “We’re worried about you,” says the man sympathetically. The man at the door, John (Johnny McPhail) comes inside. He tries speaking to Lawrence, but he is in emotional and physical hibernation. John walks to the backroom and discovers a motionless man on the bed. He’s dead.

This film explores the connections that come with death within a small community and how, at heart, everyone is caring. Whether you believe this holds true in life or not, Ballast will have you holding your head up high for humanity; however difficult it is for you to make it to the conclusion of the film.

Carry in the film is the brilliant cast – each with their own interpretation of humans in a struggle. Their lives are as repetitive and painful as hearing cats screech at each other for a 24 hour period, but they take it all in stride… or try to. There is no singular lead – or MVP – in the film, but the major cast are all earnest in their craft.

The theme of rehabilitation; both emotional and physical is very prominent in the film. With melodic stepping the film unravels this theme in a heartfelt, but dynamic way with its uncompromisingly grim setting. Fortunately, the theme comes to a resolution, and in closing we learn that emotional wounds are permanent, but physical ones we can overcome. As real a film you’ll ever see, Ballast is as remarkable as it is independent. ****/****