Crossroads (The Novice)
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Crossroads (The Novice)

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Some films go beyond just being entertaining and make us think about the decisions we have made in our lives. Each of us has had moments in our lives where a small change of mind or some event or situation would ripple through the rest of our lives. It is like a bolder rampaging down a mountain. A small rock can drastically alter its course. One film that looks at a moment like this in a young man’s life is ‘Crossroads.’ If you are up on your independent films, you might have come across it under its original title of ‘The Novice.’ This 2006 movie by filmmaker Murray Robinson tells the story of a young man studying to be a priest who meets a beautiful young woman. Now, this may seem like a lot of movies you may have encountered over the years. While this is true, the film is handled with such grace and beauty that it is a unique and rewarding experience. A movie like this is a prime example of why the art of cinema depends on the independent film movement. It is the kind of story that would not do well with a large studio or distributor since it does not have the drawing power to match the major flicks and blockbusters that dominate the industry. This is a quiet little film that depends on talent to tell a human story of love, confusion, and faith. The film has many things going for it but most its most important quality is its heart. This film challenges you to submit to your emotions and feel something human. If you are very picky, you will find some flaws and missteps in the movie, but they pale in comparison to what it accomplishes. Thankfully for those of us you enjoy a good film like this, there are smaller distributors around that are willing to take a chance with a new yet unproven filmmaker. They not only provide an entertaining film for us in the audience,e they give a chance to a deserving artisan trying to hone his craft. One such distributor is MTI. I have had the pleasure of previewing a number of their titles and they always come up with something out of the ordinary.

As is the case with a lot of Indy movies Murray Robinson had to wear several hats in its creation. He served as writer, director and one of the producers for this film. In each case, he demonstrates considerable promise and talent. The core of this story is a young man caught between his love of God and his growing love of a woman. While few in the audience have found themselves in this exact situation, the story lends itself to the exploration of far more universal themes. Many things can tear at a man’s heart, and this story touches all of us in some way or another. This is the initial effort for Robinson in all three of his roles. In each capacity, he shows the audience something special. If this is how he begins his career, I certainly look forward to how he matures in the industry. A story like this is dependent on the audience forming an emotional bond with the main characters. Robinson achieves this by taking some time in the introduction of the leads. He constructs the character of Peter (Jacob Pitts) as a young man trying to live up to his devotion to God. In an age were fewer and fewer men are turning to the seminary he leaps faith and enters training to become a Jesuit. The older priests try to bolster the conviction of the young priest in training, but Peter is torn between the secular and ecclesiastic worlds. The screenplay doesn’t push the issues into the face of the audience. That would immediately turn off the viewers. Instead, Robinson builds an unorthodox love triangle between Peter, God and the young woman in question, Jill (Amy Acker). That is is one aspect of the story that can draw in and hold the attention and empathy of the audience.

According to an interview with Robinson, there was a point in his life where he seriously considered becoming a Jesuit priest. He finally decided that attend film school instead. The ability to personalize a project goes a long way with a burgeoning filmmaker. It allows him to discover aspects of the characters and situations lend a feeling of intimacy to this film that leaps off the screen. It always helps when a creative person relies on what they know best. Robinson is also very adept at the use of imagery.

Along with his cinematographer Lou Chanatry they provide a beautiful film to, watch. Several of the motifs used in the plot are visually reflected in the scenes shown. Robinson paces the movie with precision allowing the audience to grow in their understanding of the characters and their motivation. He has a way to construct a film that makes it worth seeing.

It the first scene of the film the audience is shown some of the wooded areas. One particularly fascinating shot is a discarded snakeskin hanging from a leaf. It invokes the image of transformation and growth nicely setting the emotional tone for the central characters. Intruding on the peaceful scene is a group of men, one, addressed as a father, calls for Peter but he is not there. Peter is engaged in watching a beautiful parrot in the trees. When he rejoins the group, the father show Peter, a group of topless young women bathing. He asks if he's a desire to become a Jesuit is altered by sight. Nine months later Peter is in the seminary in South Western Louisiana. His mentor is Father Tew (Frank Langella) and older priest charged with guiding the few who want to take up the difficulties of a celibate life devoted to serving God. Peter Peter is comfortable with the older man; the two discuss his future with their feet up on Tew’s desk. Is assigned to work at a local soup kitchen helping the poor. There he meets a free-spirited young man, Jill. She is beautiful and has a feel for enjoying life. While at the new location Peter is under the direction of Father Benkhe (Alan Arkin), a quirky older priest. Peter begins to relate to Jill, and his devotion to God is not so much challenged as is his viewpoint of how Peter can serve. It is also of service to God being a good husband and father not just as a priest. Jill also teaches Peter about other means of serving; she is saving up to goth Africa with the Peace Corp.

This film is just so well constructed and presented that you have to get into it. The humanity of it is endearing and rings true. It is great for true film devotees that a distributor like MTI exists and spends its resources bring movies like this into our homes.

Posted 11/23/08                Posted   10/01/0208

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