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brutal season

Movie Reviews

[Fantastic Fest ’22] ‘Brutal Season’ review: Well written and depressing tale of past regrets

Plays out as chess matches or dances.

Brutal Season is an avant-garde film making its world premiere as part of the Burnt Ends section on the virtual Fantastic Fest @ Home. Taking place in 1948, the film follows the life of the Trout family. The patriarch of the family is looking for a job when estranged son Junior returns. Most of the family are happy to see he has returned, but Junior has his own plans.

Taking place primarily in the Trout family kitchen, the film is reminiscent of a stage play. Most of the action takes place around the dinner table, and there is little in the way of action. Brutal Season is an exposition heavy watch that uses pacing to keep the audience engaged. This means the writing is incredibly important. Dialogue does the heavy lifting and if things become too long winded, the film becomes a chore to watch.

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Thankfully writer/director Gavin Fields keeps the writing crisp and interesting. Instead of relying on long monologues, Brutal Season is a series of conversations that – depending on the situation – play out as chess matches or dances. Brutal Season expertly takes the audience back to a different decade. The setting gives an idea this is a different time, and the lack of cell phones is an obvious sign. The dress, attitudes, and mannerisms of all the characters plays into the era, also. 

There are plenty of films that have looked and sounded the part, however. What separates Brutal Season from other films that have taken place in a similar period is how genuinely it portrays the situation. It never goes out of its way to setup it takes place in the late 1940s and still manages to address current issues. As other works have shown, this is easier said than done.

The filmmaking is also well done. While everything takes place in one setting, images are seen in the window that display memories or ideas. Again, this is noticeable but never overpowering. The use of the narrator seems out of place, but is also not a big part of the film. In the end, everything adds to the well written story being told in Brutal Season.

FF @Home begins September 29

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