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Radio Inside

Coming to terms with grief and guilt gives "Radio Inside" a soulful center, around which is spun a sensitive tale of two brothers in love with the same girl. Honesty and emotional insight are frequently on hand, but writer/director Jeffrey Bell is too tenderhearted with his characters to bulk up much dramatic weight.

With:
Matthew - William McNamara Natalie - Elizabeth Shue Michael - Dylan Walsh

Coming to terms with grief and guilt gives “Radio Inside” a soulful center, around which is spun a sensitive tale of two brothers in love with the same girl. Honesty and emotional insight are frequently on hand, but writer/director Jeffrey Bell (expanding his short graduation film to feature length) is too tenderhearted with his characters to bulk up much dramatic weight, and the result fails to distinguish itself from able but antiseptic small-screen fare.

A year after the drowning of his father during a vacation, Matthew (William McNamara) is still tormented by not having been able to save him. His older brother, Michael (Dylan Walsh), attempts to yank him out of daydreamland by pushing him into an advertising career, but Matthew prefers his undemanding lifeguard job at the local pool.

Michael becomes increasingly work-obsessed, unwittingly (and somewhat predictably) fanning the flames of attraction between his frustrated girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Shue), and his brother. The bond remains relatively innocent, but adds fresh fuel to Matthew’s sense of guilt. When Michael wises up to what’s happening, he strikes back at the watery heart of his brother’s vulnerability.

Title comes from Matthew’s continual retreat into the radio inside his head, switching the dial whenever things become too problematic. But the intermittent fantasy and flashback sequences lack the stylistic flourish to successfully lift the rather bland core narrative out of its commonplace confines.

Matthew’s exchanges via phone and in the flesh with Jesus in the guise of a Cuban drifter (Ara Madzounian) feel like a similarly undernourished idea. More effective are the frequent flashes of water imagery, both as comfort and threat, and a more abstract slant in this direction may have given the film some of the textural depth it’s lacking.

Brian Capener’s crisp lensing catches the Miami setting in an eye-pleasing summer haze. Local color is overplayed, though, with at least one montage too many of neon-swathed city streets, sunstruck deco architecture and carefree beach fauna. Thesps all acquit themselves respectably, but the homogenized lead trio is too scrubbed and vanilla in tone to give their characters’ trials much urgency.

Radio Inside

Production: A Polar Entertainment production in association with Capitol Films. Produced by John Fielder, Joe Caracciolo Jr., Mark Tarlov. Executive producers, Sharon Harel, Jane Barclay. Co-producers, Margaret Hilliard, Suzanne Smith. Directed, written by Jeffrey Bell.

Crew: Camera (color), Brian Capener; editor, Jim Clark; music , Gil Goldstein; music supervisor, Bones Howe; production design, John Diminico; associate producers, Glen Trotiner, Dean Garvin; casting, Billy Hopkins, Kerry Barden. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 15, 1994. Running time: 91 MIN.

With: Matthew - William McNamara Natalie - Elizabeth Shue Michael - Dylan WalshWith: Ilse Earl, Pee Wee Love, Ara Madzounian, Steve Zurk.

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