Sam Handel takes something basic and makes it more in his short comic film, ‘The River.’ Lauren Ambrose plays Maria, a very pregnant woman who must get to the river for a desperate swim to wash away the unbearable summer heat. Handel and Ambrose give the ironically difficult yet simple mission sincere intention, making the film relatable. For anyone who’s ever been pregnant or hot or who’s hit every red light on the way to point B, it’s easy to imagine how Maria feels without actually knowing her at all. Films don’t do this enough, take easy singular ideas of common ground and evolve it modestly, tender but not overcooked. Actress truly pregnant and a mother by now, Maria comes off as she should; we’re sympathetic and tickled by her pissed-off rawness. The film is visually warm and not complicating, needing no grand enhancements, especially evident in the last few shots of Ambrose unclothed and proud. Making its way through festivals like Tribeca, Ashland, Palm Springs, and Woodstock, the film also includes ‘Girls’ star Adam Driver and acting vet Jay O. Sanders. ‘The River’ is a glorious credit to small but important endeavors.
October 11, 2013