You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Moss’

A motherless rural North Carolina lad celebrates his 18th birthday in Daniel Peddle's slight, hazily atmospheric indie drama.

Daniel Peddle
Mitchell Slaggert, Christine Marzano, Billy Ray Suggs, Dorian Cobb, Erby Dalmus Burton.
Release Date:
Jul 6, 2018

One hour 21 minutes

Hazily atmospheric “Moss” chronicles the 18th birthday of its titular rural youth, to whom the 36 hours or so depicted end up seeming quite eventful — though viewers may find them less so. Daniel Peddle’s indie drama has a handsome hero and attractive photography of the coastal North Carolina locations, but isn’t quite arresting enough in mood or style to sustain a feature so slight in story terms. Still, this is no failure, but a nice slice-of-life miniature that falls a bit short, suggesting its writer-director (whose prior efforts were mostly documentaries) is just another film or two away from more expertly combining a meditative tenor with narrative content.

Pleasure Island, just off North Carolina’s southernmost coast, is home to teenage only child Moss (Mitchell Slaggert) and his father Ray (Billy Ray Suggs). The latter makes a living crafting sculptures from driftwood, a profession his son scoffs at — though as Moss’ stoner bestie Blaze (Dorian Cobb) says, “It’s better than makin’ meth.” Our protagonist is motherless, his mom having died during childbirth, an issue that’s the source of some tension between her surviving husband and son. When dad orders the birthday boy to deliver some meds to grandma rather than laze around on his “special day,” harsh words are said, and Moss stomps off.

En route to his grandmother’s, he first stops to blaze up at Blaze’s raft-cum-houseboat on the river, complaining that he’s now an adult virgin. That problem is all too conveniently addressed when he next meets passing-through stranger Mary (Christine Marzano), who’s camping on the beach on her way to visit a brother in New York, and looks like a young Lauren Hutton. She’s quite willing to hang out and play the role of a more laid-back, slightly hippiefied Mrs. Robinson, inviting Moss to do shrooms with her as another form of initiation. As they spend the next few hours tripping out, we also get glimpses of how Ray and Blaze are separately spending their day.

Despite the odd flashback, dream sequence, slo-mo nature appreciation, and awkwardly poetical voiceover narration, there’s not a lot going on here. When something dramatic finally does happen (there are consequences to Moss forgetting all about Grandma), it seems too much — and as if Peddle realizes that himself, the film quickly backs off from dealing with the crisis in any meaningful way.

Chiseled Slaggert, a model who appeared in the mainstream horror “Wish Upon” (shot later but released first) after being “discovered” by Peddle, holds the screen well enough but doesn’t yet have the acting chops to supply much psychological nuance or depth on his own. Supporting turns are adequate if a tad uneven.

In addition to its scenic virtues, there’s a pleasant sense of life’s innate harmoniousness here: The film’s larger arc, such as it is, is one that sees Moss and his dad move from mutual anger to forgiveness without ever actually needing to talk it out. Their conflict resolves itself simply by virtue of both having enough hours apart to cool down.

Such grace notes balm “Moss” when it waxes a wee bit pretentious (especially in that voiceover), or when it seems in need of stronger collaborative elements — certainly more so than Ian Hatton’s noodling-on-the-porch electric guitar score — to lend an amorphous tale compensating aesthetic definition. Juri Beythien’s widescreen cinematography does reach some lyrical heights, however, and one suspects soon Peddle will do the same with an entire movie no less languidly pretty but more substantial than he’s managed this time.

Film Review: 'Moss'

Reviewed online, July 3, 2018, San Francisco. (In Los Angeles Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

Production: A Breaking Glass Pictures release of a Secret Gallery production. Producers: John Solomon, Daniel Peddle, Jacob Ingle. Executive producer: Gail Lyon.

Crew: Director, writer: Daniel Peddle. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Juri Beythien. Editor: Zimo Huang. Music: Ian Hatton.

With: Mitchell Slaggert, Christine Marzano, Billy Ray Suggs, Dorian Cobb, Erby Dalmus Burton.

More Film

  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan in conversation at

    Shanghai: How Nuri Bilge Ceylan Sees the World so Differently

    At a masterclass on Thursday, Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan gave the initial impression of being an austere and unwilling participant. Wearing heavy glasses, keeping his coat on, and responding to questions rather than offering a class, his manner suggested that he was difficult. In China as the head of the Shanghai International Film [...]

  • SpiderMan Far From Home

    Hollywood Takes on Italy's Vacation-Heavy Summer Season With Blockbusters

    With upcoming movies such as “Toy Story 4,” “Men in Black: International” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” Hollywood studios are finally taking the plunge this year and slotting their blockbusters in Italian cinemas during the summer, a time when residents traditionally hit the beach en masse. For decades, the studios withheld their [...]

  • Easy Money

    Netflix Orders 'Snabba Cash' Series Based on Hit Movie Franchise from SF Studios

    Netflix has ordered a six-part original series based on the hit Swedish crime franchise “Snabba Cash” from SF Studios. Based on Jens Lapidus’s bestselling novels, the series is set in Stockholm’s gritty criminal underground ten years after the events depicted in the “Snabba Cash” (“Easy Money,” pictured) movie trilogy. The society has become even more [...]

  • The Kings Man

    Film News Roundup: Disney Sets 'The King's Man' Spy Comedy for February

    In today’s film news roundup, “The King’s Man” and “A Kid From Coney Island” get release dates, and “Barry” star Anthony Carrigan joins “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” RELEASE DATE Disney has set its Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man” for release on Feb. 14, 2020. Disney made the announcement Wednesday at its [...]

  • Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light

    Shanghai Film Review: 'Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light'

    The bombastic English title might sound like it describes some comic book sci-fi epic, but in “Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light” our hero does not wear a cape but a weathered cap, and the light he guards is not an interstellar death ray but the flickering beam of a battered old movie projector. Prominent Kazakh [...]

  • Wanda Film's Zeng Maojun

    Shanghai: China's Once-Mighty Wanda Casts Itself in Role of Survivor

    The soundtrack for the introductory showreel at Wednesday evening’s Shanghai press event announcing Wanda Pictures’ annual line-up was aspirational and strangely defiant.  It began with Nina Simone crooning, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good,” and then continued with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. “You [...]

  • 'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Fashioned 1980s'

    'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

    Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content