Review by Sean Boelman
The thing with debut films is that it is easy to see where the filmmaker’s inexperience and bright-eyed passion are at odds with each other. Matthew Balzer makes a valiant attempt to revitalize a dead genre with his first feature The Catch, but its many shortcomings keep it from being particularly enjoyable.
The movie follows a woman who returns to her quaint New England hometown only to find herself in over her head when a crime goes awry. It’s a run-of-the-mill thriller set-up, but a lean and entertaining one at that. Unfortunately, the film clearly wants to be more than pulp, and Balzer largely fails to imbue his script with anything deeper.
This theme of a character having to decide between their small-town roots and learned city lifestyle is quite worn at this point, and that is the extent of the movie’s substance. There seems to be some additional subtext about a trauma that the protagonist experienced, but this is so underdeveloped that it has no impact.
On the other hand, the supporting characters in the film are really generic. Although most of them are likable, their arcs are very familiar, and as a result, the movie lacks a feeling of emotional resonance. Additionally, all of these subplots end up feeling like tangents rather than a supplement to the main plot.
If Balzer does succeed at one thing, it is in building an atmosphere. Granted, audiences have a set expectation for a thriller set in a sleepy Northeastern town, but the film does a solid job of building that suspense. It manages to be mostly intense despite the fact that viewers won’t be invested in the story.
That said, there is a fundamental flaw in the movie that threatens to undermine all of the suspense-building that Balzer does, and that is the cinematography. The film is way too dark to the point of leaving the audience unable to see a significant majority of the action. What makes this even more disappointing is that it wastes its lovely coastal backdrop.
There is a pretty solid cast in the movie, and they manage to make something interesting out of their roles. Katia Winter plays the protagonist in a mostly straightforward way, but is charismatic enough to drive the film forward. Bill Sage and James McMenamin both give supporting turns that are enjoyable to watch. And the extremely talented Kyle Gallner even succeeds despite being given the most underwritten character in the movie.
The Catch would be entirely watchable if it weren’t for the fact that you can barely see most of what is happening. Matthew Balzer should be applauded for trying his best, but with the resources at his disposal, this should have been a lot more.
The Catch screens at the Enzian Theater as part of the Florida Film Festival on April 12 at 6:30pm and is also available virtually for the duration of the festival. The 2021 Florida Film Festival runs April 8-22 in Orlando, FL.