Producer: Summer Shelton, Michael B. Clark and Alex Turtletaub
Director: Matthew Brown
Writer: Matthew Brown
Stars: Laia Costa, Thomas Mann, Pat Dortch, Pete Burrius, Jeremy DeCarlos, Matthew Brown, Yossie Mulyadi, Neil Soffer, Glyn Stewart, David Gayle Price, Gus Halper, Joey McGowan and Shannon Queen
Studio: Orion Classics
A trek along the Appalachian Trail rekindled an old friendship in Ken Kwapis’ “A Walk in the Woods” (2015), but the effect it might have on two far younger strangers travelling together is the question posed by “Maine,” the second feature from writer-director Matthew Brown. (The state, of course, is the trail’s final destination.)
The hiking partners are Bluebird (Laia Costa) and Lake (Thomas Mann)—those are their trail monikers, of course—who met along the trail and have been keeping company ever since. Not romantically, it should be noted: when they spend some time with other hikers who assume they’re a couple, Bluebird quickly disabuses them of the notion, though Lake, who obviously is hoping that their relationship might go beyond the purely platonic, is taken aback at her vehemence—as well as her willingness to disclose the not entirely comfortable circumstances of their first encounter.
No, they’re simply trail buddies who spend the evenings talking around the campfire, occasionally about their lives (her marriage is apparently in trouble, he’s still searching for some stability), but more often about ephemera—pop tunes, personal embarrassments, Spongebob Squarepants. Much of the film simply eavesdrops on their conversations, many of which feel impromptu and semi-improvised. Bluebird is the more controlled of the two, guarding her secrets even when she suffers one of her dark, depressed moods; Lake is more voluble and loose, prodding her to be more open and evidently disappointed when the wall between them remains obstinately in place.
The result is basically a two-hander, though periodically the duo meets others—not just hikers, but locals, like a genial old coot who offers them some food and drink. But the real third character in “Maine” is the landscape; the first ten minutes or so of the film are dialogue-free, with Donald R. Monroe’s camera roaming the Virginia countryside and the technical team capturing the ambient sounds. That immersion in the location continues throughout.
Brown doesn’t go the predictable route of mainstream Hollywood fare, and the ending of “Maine” isn’t what you might expect. Indeed, it concludes with a monologue about his life delivered by another elderly gent (David Gayle Price) that acts as something of a commentary to what we’ve watched occurring between Bluebird and Lake as they grow closer and arrive at the cusp of real commitment. Unexpected things can happen, and people can suddenly go off in different directions. But life goes on.
“Maine” would benefit from sharper characterizations and more pungent dialogue, and while Mann captures the goofy vulnerability of his semi-slacker youth well, Costa’s more buttoned-down performance makes Bluebird a less sympathetic figure than she might have been.
Still, as a vignette of a casual but potentially life-changing encounter between two dissimilar people it has some charm, though while it delivers a genuine sense of place, it doesn’t delve very deep emotionally.