Nothing much happens in the cozy nook known as "Wilbur Falls." So, when tyro feature filmmaker Juliane Glantz attempts to manufacture some drama involving a high school valedictorian and a missing teenage boy, result is more contrived than gripping. More often than not, the story misfires, leaving the commercial prospects for this indie adrift.

Nothing much happens in the cozy nook known as “Wilbur Falls.” So, when tyro feature filmmaker Juliane Glantz attempts to manufacture some drama involving a high school valedictorian and a missing teenage boy, result is more contrived than gripping. While her observation of small town life sometimes connects, more often the story misfires or rambles leaving the commercial prospects for this American indie adrift. It might find a home in TV syndication, but few other venues will be receptive.

Yarn opens as Renata Devereaux (Shanee Edwards) begins her graduation address to classmates and parents. She promptly lets the cat out of the bag about her complicity in the disappearance of Jeff Avalle, one of many peers who taunted her when she arrived in town. How this good girl went wrong is then revealed in flashback.

From the outset, there’s a homespun quality to the enterprise which suggests that the upshot will somehow be less sensational and more upbeat than the come-on. After all, the girl has basically decent, if eccentric, parents and wholesome good looks.

Eventually, the circumstance of Jeff’s demise is revealed, as is Renata’s warm heart and moral fiber. However, good intentions simply aren’t enough. This is a loopy shaggy dog tale that lacks wit, charm or an assured directorial hand. It lurches along, and, despite a valiant attempt by Danny Aiello as the girl’s compassionate father to ground the piece, most performances are strained and obvious.

Tech credits aren’t appreciably better, with the disjointed story accentuated by jarring editing and a thick score.

Wilbur Falls

Production

A Vexatious Films presentation. Produced by David L. Dellman. Executive producers, Dellman, Joseph Pecorard, Richard Pepin, Joseph Merhi. Directed, written by Juliane Glantz, based on a story by Jim Halfpenny.

With

Phil Devereaux - Danny Aiello Roberta Devereaux - Sally Kirkland Renata Devereaux - Shanee Edwards Arnie - Jeff Daurey Jodi Baker - Cheril Hayres T-Bone - David Anthony Marshall Johnny Handsome - Fred Stoller Guidance Counselor - Maureen Stapeton Jeff Avalle - Charlie Newmark Mrs. Avalle - Kit Flanagan
Camera (Fotokem), Kurt Brabbee; editors, John Gilbert, Duncan Burns; music, Halfpenny; art director, David Dawdy; costume designer, Kristine Anarcher; sound, Warren Weberg; associate producers, Lisa Haisha, Stephen Glantz; assistant director, Richard Fox; casting, Pecorard. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (Cinema of Today), Sept. 4, 1998. Running time: 95 MIN.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more