The Integrity of Joseph Chambers

Tribeca Festival US Narrative Competition

Reviewed for by Abe Friedtanzer

Director: Robert Machoian

Writer: Robert Machoian

Cast: Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Screened at: Critics’ link, NY, 4/3/22

Opens: June 9th, 2022

Everyone would like to think that they would act the right way in an emergency situation, but it’s hard to know until it actually presents itself. Those who admonish others for speeding away from the scene of a car accident or attempting to cover up some other unforeseen and unintended event may not act any differently when they are the ones involved in it. The Integrity of Joseph Chambers focuses on one man and the way in which he responds to an unthinkable circumstance.

Joe (Clayne Crawford) leaves his home one morning intent on proving that he is capable of fitting in with his country surroundings. His wife Tess (Jordana Brewster) doesn’t feel good about him going hunting by himself, but he feels he has to do it, so that he can better assimilate into a community that doesn’t feel natural. When he fires off a shot, Joe finds that he has hit someone. Unsure of whether he has killed the man, Joe scrambles to figure out what to do and whether there is a way out of this that won’t radically alter his entire life.

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers marks the reunion of writer-director Robert Machoian and star Clayne Crawford following their collaboration on the 2020 Sundance feature The Killing of Two Lovers. That project provides a helpful framework for what to expect with this one, trading the implied violence of its title for an intimate and personal story of emotions and relationships. Machoian and Crawford clearly have an effective method of communicating and working with each other, and this is a similar story about someone who says volumes while rarely opening his mouth to speak.

This is a deeply isolating movie, one that features Brewster’s Tess in its opening scene but otherwise focuses mostly just on Crawford for the entirety of the film. When he leaves, Joe sports a mustache that Tess mocks, but that’s stuck with him for the entirety of his hellish day. It’s the kind of moment that feels like it could easily be imagined, and the fact that it is reality slowly begins to sink in for Joe as he takes in his surroundings and processes his options, which, combined with adrenaline, feel like they are all just as impossible as turning back the clock and preventing the incident from happening in the first place.

If there is an actor singularly suited to play this role, it’s Crawford. He brought a tenderness to his leading part in The Killing of Two Lovers that exemplified his ability to tap into the silent and contemplative aspects of rage, something that was more visible in his performance in the underrated series Rectify. With precious few scene partners, it’s up to Crawford to carry the entire film, and he does so admirably, moving around the woods and scrambling to figure out what he can do. It’s as if the audience is trapped there within him, just as worried about the irreversibility of what he has done but hopeless to help him make the closest thing to a right decision.

Though this concept is interesting and the efforts of Machoian’s frequent cinematographer collaborator Oscar Ignacio Jiménez make it an even more inviting and immersive experience, there isn’t actually much that goes on during the 96 minutes that make up this film. It may be difficult for even the most concentrated and diligent audience member to stay fully engaged. Machoian knows how to pace his films to keep them coherent and enticing, but, as its title indicates, it’s more about capturing and conveying an emotional state than being a plot-driven film.

96 minutes

Story – B

Acting – B+

Technical – B+

Overall – B

Clayne Crawford in ‘The Integrity of Joseph Chambers.’ Courtesy of Visit Films.

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