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This is Martin Bonner

We first see a man, black and in prison uniform, being questioned by two older white men. They’re trying to interest him in a rehabilitation program to prepare him for his release from prison. We assume that this is going to be his story. But when the scene ends, we leave him to follow one of his interviewers. His name is Martin (Paul Eenhoorn), and he is new to this job.

The title says This Is Martin Bonner, but it’s not his story the way you might expect it to be. For a little while we watch him going about the daily routine of a man without a routine. He’s living in Reno, Nevada, but like just about everyone else here he’s not from here. In his 50s, he wound up here after he lost his previous life to job downsizing, bankruptcy, and divorce. Now he supervises a religious-based organization that works with newly released prisoners. He says it’s the only place that would give him a job, but it’s clearly the right place for him to be.

One such man who comes his way is Travis (Richmond Arquette, brother of Rosanna, Patricia, and David), who served 12 years for killing a man in a drunk driving incident. He’s going to need all the help he can get making a place for himself in the world again: The simple task of getting a new driver’s license, as we see in one scene, seems like an endless morass of procedures and fees.

Not much happens on a story level in this second film by writer-director Chad Hartigan, winner of numerous film festival awards including major Sundance prize. We watch men, not young but not yet played out, living in a kind of purgatory (it doesn’t make you want to visit Reno) from which they may or may not emerge. The detail is precise, as are the performances. These may not be people you would care to see a film about, but seeing it I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t be moved to care about them.

This Is Martin Bonner plays this week at the Screening Room in Amherst.


Watch the trailer for This is Martin Bonner




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