The plot is deceptively simple: A college professor takes a sabbatical to return to his childhood home less to focus on a new book and far more to provide assistance to his fragile mother. When he returns he must determine how to "re-connect" not only to his family, former lover and friends but to the very core of his identity. The important cinematic elements here have little to do with the actual "story" but far more within the way Colvin "tells" it. This challenging aspect of the film is what makes it so important. Not to deny the emotional power the film carries, but this an intense study framed within Formalist Film Theory. Colvin makes masterful use of Aaron Granat's cinematography, set design, colors, pacing and literal perspective to communicate the complexities of universal human challenges. Despite a shoestring budget, he has made an extraordinary and masterful work. His cast understand this rigid framework in which they are required to deliver Avant-Garde minimal approach to acting. Robert Longstreet is one of the most under-valued actors working in film. He is able to convey more with the most casual physicality than most movie stars in "realist" styles. But it is Rhoda Griffis who is given the most challenging role as Ben's former lover. When she reads some of our protagonist's writing it is clear that she sees through his Kierkegaard/Nietzschean posing. Cinephiles and philosophy lovers will savor "Sabbatical" from beginning to end. And, while this is a clearly cinematically referential film -- tapping into every one from Bresson and Bergman to the more obscure stylings of Jost and Hollis Frampton. But Colvin is not mimicking, stealing or even borrowing. These references are used as jumping points to create a film hat is completely unique. As the film reaches conclusion, the potency of what has been artistically presented comes to the audience like breath of new air. A few hours later, I realized that Colvin had managed to do more the deliver a potent movie -- he had gut-punched me so quickly that I didn't actually feel the pain until a few hours later. "Sabbatical" is a film so clever and intelligent it demands attention.
While on sabbatical, Ben Hardin returns home to care for his ailing mother.
September 10, 2020