Review by Camden Ferrell
Working Man is the debut feature of writer/director Robert Jury, and it has played at several festivals since its premiere. The movie is definitely a product of its time and may bear some significance on modern industry, but its efforts to speak loudly are sometimes undermined by a slow pace and forgettable writing.
After a factory closes down, Allery, a man who has worked multiple decades with the company, is forced to confront a life without work. Unable to do so and with help of a former co-worker, Allery heads back to work in order to galvanize a small town in the Rust Belt. It’s a quiet story that has the potential to speak to many, but the movie unfortunately gets too involved in its own simplicity.
Jury’s script is minimal, but it’s sufficient in communicating its ideas. It doesn’t indulge itself into expository dialogue, but it rather lets the viewer learn through the observation of the quiet and routine-driven protagonist. The screenplay is one of the more subtle virtues of this movie, and it does make up for some but not all of its shortcomings. It shows that Jury has some untapped potential to reach profound heights, and it’s a potential that is seen in brief moments in the film.
The best part of this movie was its performances. Peter Gerety (Flight) plays Allery, and his performance is as minimal as it gets, but he’s able to make it interesting enough in most of his scenes. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done. Billy Brown (How to Get Away with Murder) also does some interesting things as his co-worker, but the best performance comes from Talia Shire (Rocky). Playing Allery’s wife, Shire does some great things, and she puts a lot of soul into the backstory and sadness of her character.
While this film succeeds in some departments, it doesn’t always deliver in others. Jury’s script is decent, but the way he executes scenes and blocks them is lackluster to say the least. Even though the topic isn’t meant to incite excitement, the direction could still add some more life to many moments. It’s not awful, but it leaves quite a lot to be desired.
The movie can also find itself wandering into some implausible territory. For a film rooted in such real experiences that are shared by many, its uplifting story can become too familiar and contrived to feel authentic. It’s a minor qualm, but it’s one that took me away from the experience and altered the way I perceived the message of the film.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the tragic backstory of Allery that isn’t nearly explored enough. While it might be justified by the events of the film, it would have been nice to have more development. Also, the movie does have a decent amount to say about the modern decline of the Rust Belt. It highlights the plight and troubles of those who lose work and those who want to work. It may not speak equally to all, but it addresses issues that affect everyone in one way or another. Sadly, this relevance often gets muddled slightly throughout the movie.
Working Man is a solemn movie about one man’s desire to work in the face of an industry that’s dying. It’s an underwhelming yet hopeful debut for Jury, and it shows slight beacons of some great things to come from him. The movie has some great acting, but it can’t always make up for what it’s missing.
Working Man is available on VOD May 5.