Director Andy Graydon grabs attention with an intriguing premise and a palpable sense of foreboding throughout first half of “Life Sentence.” Somewhere around midway point, however, things start to unravel, and suspense gives way to tedium, then confusion. Initially promising pic devolves into fodder for homevid bins.
Even so, there’s something undeniably fascinating about symbiotic relationship that develops between Richard Barrow (Patrick Clear), a burnt-out, middle-aged Chicago book critic, and B. Rian Garrity (Andrew Rothenberg), a brilliant but unstable young author. Five years earlier, Garrity’s first novel was greeted with universal raves. Since then, however, he’s been too busy boozing, and too immobilized by writer’s block, to even begin a follow-up book. Slowly, insinuatingly, Barrow worms his way into Garrity’s life, taking on the roles of editor and mentor while contriving to remove “distractions” — like Maddie (Mariann Mayberry), the writer’s amazingly patient girlfriend. Early on, it becomes obvious that neither Garrity’s novel nor Graydon’s pic is likely to have a happy ending. Unlike Garrity, however, Graydon relies on an unconvincing plot twist and a few melodramatic flourishes to wrap things up.