Title: 10 Years Later
Writer-director: Aaron Metchik
Starring: Rachel Boston, Jake Hoffman, James Debello, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Senta Moses, Aaron Metchik, McKinley Freeman, Colin Fickes, Lee De Broux
There’s a natural drama and tingly anticipation that marks all reunions of once thick-as-thieves adolescents, which is why of course the subgenre of movies that specifically trades in anniversary gatherings is so healthy and robust. Another filing in this category arrives in the form of writer-director Aaron Metchik’s ’10 Years Later’, a low-budget, character-based thriller of sorts in which a high school reunion goes awry, and ends up with a kidnapping.
The movie unwinds in a small town in California, where Josh (Jake Hoffman) still lives locally in his boyhood home, his once-promising potential arrested by anxieties that have resigned him to life as a pizza delivery guy. Aspiring actor Adam (multi-hyphenate Metchik) and uptight white-collar professional Miranda (Kathleen Rose Perkins) are a couple, while nervous Becky (Senta Moses) is still in pain from discovering that her significant other has been cheating on her. Big-man-on-campus Darrell (McKinley Freeman) is now a professional football player, with a young son in tow (apparently a babysitter can’t be found). And then there’s Kyra (Rachel Boston). She’s the straw that stirs the drink, a stripper who’s tried to bury the hurt of her past by adopting a vibrant, cheery, anything-goes exterior.
Everyone gets together in the afternoon at Josh’s house, and after some genial back-slapping some slightly more revelatory yearnings and inclinations get trotted out. When Kyra and Becky run out for cigarettes and refreshments prior to their evening reunion proper, an incident with Garrett (Cabin Fever’s James Debello), an old classmate who nastily forced himself on Kyra, quickly spirals out of control. After smashing him over the head with a bottle, Kyra and Becky load Garrett in the trunk of their car and return to Josh’s place. Naturally, the rest of the gang freaks out, and debates what to do. Compounding the problem is the fact that Garrett is now a police officer. Needless to say, some Four Loko, beer pong and a good-natured group game of Parcheesi do not ensue.
’10 Years Later’, which just screened at the 14th annual Dances With Films festival, draws upon a rich lineage of more talky, urbane high school and college reunion flicks — from the notable, like ‘The Big Chill’, to other festival works, like ‘Seven and a Match’ — but it also blends in elements of the “accidental kidnap drama,” as found in ‘The Ref’ or the forthcoming ‘The Perfect Host’, starring David Hyde Pierce. Its plotting is fairly rangy. The movie stretches its legs and works through an inquisitive appearance by Garrett’s sheriff father, an escape attempt, an incident with another interloper who could identify the group and, eventually, a fire. But as often as not, these naked stabs at drama elicit more shrugs than nervous emotional involvement, or certainly thrills. The twists herein feel reactionary in measure, a collection of goosing pivot points rather than the logical extension of characters’ actions.
Metchik’s film feels like it would be more interesting if it had a more settled soul, and just let its characters talk through some of their individual and collective issues — or, conversely, it introduced a sustained, single outside investigatory force/threat (like Garrett’s father) earlier on, forcing the group to come together and present a united front. Attempting to vacillate back and forth between buried emotions and supposed action thrills doesn’t do the performers many favors, creating a tonal imbalance that makes it hard for them to stay on the same page.
That said, even if they don’t all convincingly fit together, there are some fitfully engaging moments herein, and there’s a reason that movies of this ilk retain a certain innate appeal. We all occasionally wonder about the folks with whom we no longer keep in touch from our teenage years, and retain a special bond with those whom we do. ’10 Years Later’ exploits that inherent curiosity, filtering it through a rubric of heightened stakes and reminding viewers that it’s probably best to let some old grudges lie dormant.
Written by: Brent Simon