Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Prince Avalanche

Reviews - Prince Avalanche

Prince Avalanche

Reviewed By Chris Coombes

Prince Avalanche
Prince Avalanche
Last Sunday Keswick Film Club once again came up with an intriguing offering. It was a small film; quiet and surprisingly gentle – particularly given that the two central characters were men who much of the time were at odds with each other. I have no idea why the film was called Prince Avalanche, and that was just one of the aspects that leave me feeling a bit clueless. I think perhaps it was one of those films where you have to sit back, let it wash over you and enjoy it – which I did.

The story is set in rural America in 1988 and brings together Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his girlfriend’s brother Lance (Emile Hirsch) - two people already lost in different ways - employed to paint yellow road markings down the centre of a traffic-less road in the middle of nowhere. All we know of the area is that it has been devastated by fire –providing us with a hauntingly beautiful backdrop of burnt forest and destroyed homes.

As the men attempt to rub along they learn to deal with their differences and come to terms with their own shortcomings by alternately indulging in childish bad behaviour and discussing personal issues – how they feel, how they would respond to certain situations, the miracle of having a child. This could have seemed forced and even ridiculous, but it was handled really well I thought, and very well acted – allowing us to enjoy the development of this unlikely relationship, and to recognize bits of ourselves in these two people.

Another pleasant, but unfathomable surprise was the intermittent presence of a truck driver (Lance LeGault) who turns up throughout the story to dispense booze and cheerful wisdom. I was never quite sure whether he really existed, but his contribution was delightful and added to the quirkiness of the story. He warns Lance never to sleep with a woman more than three times because if you do you start to have ‘feelings’ – this was a lovely comic moment.

Possibly the most interesting surprise was the inclusion of a couple of scenes with real-life wildfire victim Joyce Payne who we find sifting painstakingly through the ruins of her house looking for evidence of her past career as a pilot. An impossible task, but she seemed dedicated to seeing it through. She gives us a strong sense of loss and pain, but at the same time she demonstrates the determination that some people can have to compensate for loss in what ever ways make sense to them, opening doors to regeneration and renewal. I was struck in the scene when we meet Joyce by the irony of how, when houses burn down we are left with the fire place and chimney breast standing – the hearth, the heart and centre of the home. There was a terrible sadness in this and Joyce was only too well aware of it.

A wonderful soundtrack and some beautiful shots of the landscape added to the pleasure of this strange film with its focus on an apparently never-ending road to who knows where. But the road is there, so it must go somewhere, and so people paint road markings on it. A little like life itself.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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