The very existence of “Come Morning” is a testimony to a love of cinema that transcends the routine Hollywood formula. It’s the same deep appreciation for film and process that independent filmmakers have been showcasing for decades as they plow their own paths to tell their own stories. For writer, director, cinematographer, and editor Derrick Sims that love for the form oozes out of every frame of his movie.
The film’s production is an inspiring story in itself. It was shot in just twelve days and with a crew of only ten people, many of whom tackled multiple roles. Sims shot on location near his childhood home of Kingsland, Arkansas during a chilly early winter and with the bulk of the scenes taking place at night. Yet despite the limitations of an extremely tight budget, Sims never allows for himself to be handcuffed creatively.
This Deep South suspense thriller is set in 1973 rural Arkansas. Frank (Michael Ray Davis) prepares to take his grandson D (Thor Wahlestedt) out for an afternoon hunt amid the cryptic protests of his concerned wife (Elise Rovinsky). It’s clear to us that her worries are rooted in something deeper than an old man and a young boy going hunting. But Sims doesn’t tell us everything. Instead he wisely allows up to pick up bits of information along the way.
As we stubborn men tend to do, Frank ignores the pleas of his wife and takes D to their spot in the woods. Believing they have shot a deer, the pair discover they have accidentally killed Marion Mitchell (Thomas Moore), a trespassing neighbor with the volatile history with Frank’s family. D wants to call the police, but Frank decides to hide the body deeper into the woods, one of several complex moral decisions with hefty consequences.
As the story pulls Frank and D further from home a sense of dread settles over the film. We know things are not going to go well. As with before, Sims doesn’t spell everything out for us. Instead the backstory takes form through small pieces of conversations and a handful of flashbacks, some more effective than others. And as things steadily grow darker, we watch young D’s innocence being chiseled away in one scene after another.
Adding to our overall unease is how Sims deftly creates atmosphere and tension. Much of it is through the arresting cinematography. Again, the bulk of the film takes place at night yet despite that potential hurdle Sims is able to create a convincing sense of place. It is especially seen in the landscapes which are visualized in such a way as to be both beautiful and foreboding. And when accompanied by Justin Slaughter’s striking and understated score, it’s all the more effective.
“Come Morning” tells a simple yet compelling story while pulling us into a place shrewdly realized through Sims’ camera. And despite being patient with its reveals, the film maintains a crisp and economical pace throughout within its taut 80 minute frame. There are instances where the money constraints can be felt, but the film shows that even miniscule budgets can’t overthrow a good story especially when it lies in the hands of a confident filmmaker with a clear vision.
“Come Morning” is available on Amazon Prime. Give it a look and tell me what you think.
VERDICT – 4 STARS