Writer-director Steven O’Connor’s first feature, “Upstate,” is a well-intentioned attempt to explore the shadowy secrets that haunt one family, but there is a disconcerting absence of dramatic force in this tale of two battling brothers. Uneven writing and spotty acting will make it hard for item to find much of an audience.
Following the death of his mother, Dan McCarthy (Jonah Bay) heads back to his family home in upstate New York to visit his older brother, Robert (Hugh O’Gorman), and try to determine why he was a no-show at the funeral. Robert, who was a piano-playing whiz, now makes a living driving a delivery truck and spends much of his free time making life nearly intolerable for his g.f., Julie (Julie Kessler). Dan decides to spends a few days with the couple, fixing his car and attempting to repair old family wounds.
Story continually cuts to latenight scene at a nearby lake, where Robert is threatening Dan and Julie with a gun. Narrative is further jumbled by flashbacks to the pivotal event in the McCarthy family history, when their father committed suicide. Along the way, Dan and Julie start having an affair.
O’Connor’s decision to use a nonlinear form of storytelling serves only to dilute the impact of the central action, and there is little passion to the proceedings. Both Bay and O’Gorman turn in listless perfs, while Kessler provides the only sparks with her raunchy, blue-collar presence. Tech credits are just fair.