×

Film Review: ‘Colewell’

A rural postal worker faces the unwanted end of her comfortable circumstances in writer-director Tom Quinn’s sensitive, serene drama.

Director:
Tom Quinn
With:
Karen Allen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Hannah Gross, Malachy Cleary, Daniel Jenkins, Craig Walker.

1 hour 19 minutes

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9275046/

Populated by characters who rarely raise their voices, much less engage in anything that might qualify as “action,” “Colewell” is a character study that’s almost too subdued for its own good. Fortunately, writer-director Tom Quinn has a keen eye for telling details, as well as a superb lead actress in Karen Allen, who stars as a postal worker facing an uncertain future. In an era of louder-than-loud tentpoles, it’s not clear that this small-scale drama has steadier prospects than its protagonist. Discerning audiences, however, should warm to its understated charms, should it be picked up from among the titles in the San Francisco Int’l Film Festival’s acquisitions-oriented “Launch” section, where it made its world premiere.

In the tiny enclave of Colewell, Penn., Nora (Allen) follows a daily routine of making coffee, feeding her chickens, cooking eggs, and opening the post office that she oversees — and which is located, conveniently, in her own house. It’s a gathering place for the area’s locals, and provides a sense of purpose and community for Nora, a solitary woman whose only nominal friend is Charles (Kevin J. O’Connor), the colleague who delivers mail to her each day, and for his trouble — and convivial chitchat — always departs with a few freshly laid eggs.

“Colewell” depicts all of this with a patient hand, buoyed by cinematographer Paul Yee’s inviting visuals and Dara Taylor’s melancholy score. The director’s delicate aesthetics are in tune with his plotting, which reveals Nora through her day-to-day habits and sporadic interactions, as well as via the wistful sorrow residing in her eyes. Such emotion is soon joined by anger, frustration and fear when she learns that the Post Office plans to close her outpost, leaving her with two options: She can retire, or else transfer to a distant new job that would require a bus commute. Nora wants neither, given that they both spell the end of her comfortable reality. Subsequent sit-downs with corporate bigwigs, and town hall meetings where residents air their grievances, only amplify her hopelessness and longing for a bygone past.

Offhand references to a husband and youthful hitchhiking convey how Nora wound up in this remote rural settlement, and also why she might balk at altering her circumstances. Quinn’s evocation of his rural milieu is as heartfelt as Allen’s tender performance as Nora, who, just beneath her friendly exterior, is a haunted soul scared of being alone, starting over, and the idea that obsolescence may be drawing near. Those anxieties are suggested by an opening quotation about how life inherently feels — namely, like it goes on “forever and not long enough” — as well as by intermittent scenes involving its speaker, Ella (Hannah Gross), a young hitchhiker with a complicated attitude about change.

Ella’s relationship to Nora is never overtly explained, and yet it remains clear from, among other things, Quinn’s dreamy juxtapositions of the two. Their dynamic is one of many “Colewell” elements to benefit from the filmmaker’s confident storytelling, which efficiently addresses the push-pull between youth and age, movement and stasis, courage and timidity. Even at a concise 79 minutes, its tranquility — enhanced by gauzy images spied through sheer window curtains, and reflections of Nora and Ella in foggy mirrors and nighttime windows — occasionally verges on the somnambulistic. Still, the film’s finely crafted serenity is in keeping with its main character’s secluded state of affairs, and mind.

Film Review: 'Colewell'

Reviewed at IFC Center, New York., April 5, 2019. (In San Francisco Film Festival — Launch.) Running time: 79 MIN.

Production: A Washington Square Films and Byer, Shilowich, Thurm production in association with Wavelength Productions. Producer: Alexander Byer, Craig Shilowich, Matthew Thurm, Joshua Blum, Cameron Brody, Catherine Kellner. Executive producers: Konawal Micah Spear, Jenifer Westphal, Joe Plummer. Co-producers: Maggie Ambrose. Co-executive producers: Adam Kirszner.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Tom Quinn. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Paul Yee. Editor: Darrin Navarro, Tom Quinn. Music: Dara Taylor.

With: Karen Allen, Kevin J. O’Connor, Hannah Gross, Malachy Cleary, Daniel Jenkins, Craig Walker.

More Film

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • The Lion King

    Box Office: 'The Lion King' Roars Overseas With Mighty $269 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” certainly felt the love this weekend, generating $269 million at the international box office. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the classic Disney cartoon now holds the eighth-biggest debut of all time overseas, and that’s not including the film’s early opening in China last weekend. Combined with a stellar $185 million start [...]

  • Scarlett JohanssonMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Scarlett Johansson Reveals What We'll Learn About Black Widow in Stand-Alone Movie

    Scarlett Johansson can finally talk about her upcoming “Black Widow” movie. While she can’t divulge spoilers, she let out a big sigh of relief after the film was officially announced on Saturday during the Marvel Studios presentation at Comic-Con. More Reviews Concert Review: Queen and Adam Lambert Capitalize on 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Concert Review: Hugh Jackman [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content