Essentially an 84-minute shoulder shrug captured onscreen, “Big Significant Things” is the latest American independent feature to suggest there are few things more intriguing than a young white guy trying to find himself. Writer-director Bryan Reisberg’s droopy debut feature drifts alongside an early thirtysomething from New Jersey taking a solo Southern road trip while pondering a major life decision, and the character’s pleasant, non-committal attitude proves unfortunately infectious: It’s as hard for us to get invested in his journey as it is for the film to find a narrative foothold. Commercial prospects for this Oscilloscope pickup (released July 24 in theaters and on VOD) look decidedly out of sync with the movie’s title.
All we know initially about Craig (Harry Lloyd, a long way from “Game of Thrones”) is that he’s on a quest to find the big things in life, quite literally: His itinerary includes such Guinness-worthy gimmick attractions as the world’s largest cedar bucket, the world’s largest rocking chair, etc. As he stops at cheap motels in podunk towns, chats it up with the variably friendly locals, and (on more than one occasion) gets drunk with teenagers, it becomes clear that the landmarks he’s seeking out are a not-so-thinly veiled metaphor for the very big step he’s about to take with his girlfriend (who’s never seen, only heard as an increasingly impatient voice on the phone).
It’s a cutesy premise that may well tax the patience of even those inclined to sympathize with Craig — which is to say, someone who seems to have it all together, but who’s starting to question whether making all the right decisions was in fact the right decision. A potentially wrong decision eventually looms in the form of an attractive, somewhat guarded Finnish girl (a fine Krista Kosonen) whose lonely bar song seems to capture the ineffable sadness beneath Craig’s easygoing demeanor. And to the movie’s credit, it doesn’t coddle Craig or completely let him off the hook for his mistakes; along the way, there are plenty of disapproving glances cast in his direction and, eventually, harsh, judgmental radio voices calling him out for his mistakes.
That modicum of self-awareness, however, isn’t enough to keep “Big Significant Things” from feeling like a quick but unproductive road to nowhere — albeit a rather good-looking one, thanks to the scenic widescreen lensing courtesy of d.p. Luca Del Puppo. Other visual elements and design curlicues (including the postcard-style graphics announcing Craig’s latest destination) lend the production a level of polish that belies its low budget. It’s an attractive frame for a picture that’s sorely lacking a compelling center.