Review: STRANGE BUT TRUE Doesn’t Stick The Landing But Is Still Mostly Compelling

FIRST IMPRESSION

Although the script has a fair amount of flaws, Strange But True is nonetheless an interesting and compelling melodrama/mystery with good performances.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Strange But True, directed by Rowan Athale, is a new mystery-drama film with plenty of shocking twists. Thanks to some impressive turns from the star-studded ensemble, this film is able to overcome a sometimes ridiculous script to be an enjoyable watch.

This film is about a family whose life is turned upside down when the former girlfriend of a long dead family member visits them, claiming to be pregnant by the deceased. Although this story seems like something that would come out of a soap opera, it is, for the most part, rooted in honest emotion. Some of the twists, particularly those that come towards the end of the film, are rather ludicrous.

Because the film loses touch with reality towards the end, the film ultimately becomes anticlimactic. When the big reveal is made as to what actually proceeded in the story, it is unsatisfying because the ambiguity which the film was working so hard to build for much of the runtime is ruined. In this regard, the film would have benefitted from having a lot more subtlety.

The character development also could have used some work. The main issue with the characters in this film is simply that the ensemble is too big, Since there are so many characters involved in the story, it is difficult to have them all fully developed and explored. Eventually, all of the subplots tie together into the main story, but for a majority of the film, some of the characters feel like throwaways.

strange but true qualley

That said, the emotional core of the film is surprisingly good. The protagonist, played by Nick Robinson, is a very interesting character with whom it is easy to sympathize. His emotional arc, along with this mother’s, about coming to terms with their grief, is the most compelling part of the film, and is dominant for much of the first hour. After that point, the mystery becomes the driving force of the film, and while this part is still entertaining, it isn’t quite as effective.

The cast does an excellent job in the film. Robinson gives a subtle turn in the leading role, playing on some of the strengths he has shown in his other performances. The amazing supporting cast that surrounds him includes Margaret Qualley, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brian Cox, and Blythe Danner, though some of their talents feel wasted on miniscule roles. Danner and Kinnear have particularly small roles that did not fully utilize them.

On a technical level, the film is fine, if a little inconsistent. The most distracting part of the film is the sound quality, which was sometimes not up to par. That said, the overall look and style of the film is solid, as it gives the film a surreal and dreamlike air that highlights the ambiguity in the earlier portion.

Strange But True could have used a bit of refinement in the final act, but for the most part, it offers a compelling and twisty mystery. The cast alone makes this film worth a watch.

Strange But True is now in theaters and on VOD.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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