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Laramie Movie Scope:
Welcome to Pine Hill

A lonely existential journey

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 25, 2013 -- This project is an extension of writer/director Keith Miller's earlier short film “Prince/William” about a man finding his lost dog, sort of. The film starts out with this scene, but goes on to a lot of surprising developments after that.

This film is unpredictable all the way up to the end, when it finally does start to get predictable. This is a film that is both short on plot and stretched out in time. If it weren't for the hand-held camera lingering on some shots way too long with no cuts, this film would be only about 40 minutes long. As it is, its running time is just 81 minutes, but it seems longer because of the slow pace.

The encounter between two men, Shannon (played by Shannon Harper) and a neighbor with a dog on a leash, has a kind of surrealistic feel to it. Shannon says he lost his dog and that the stranger found it. Shannon wants the dog back, but the stranger can keep it if he pays Shannon $250. This sounds like a hustle, rather than a real lost dog story. Shannon could not get away with this except for one thing: Shannon is a huge hulking man who works as a bouncer, as well as an insurance claims adjuster.

Shannon is a man with a calm demeanor, but there is anger just under the surface. At one point in the film, he nearly starts a fight with a man he doesn't like, a college-educated blowhard who doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to crime and poverty. There is no actual fight, but it is pretty clear who would win the fight since Shannon outweighs his opponent by 100 pounds.

A reformed drug dealer, Shannon encounters one of his old drug dealer friends and agrees to hold a package for him. He nonchalantly drops the package in his desk drawer. You think you know where this is going, but you don't. The plot veers off in another direction.

Later, we see Shannon sitting with his friends, drinking beer, smoking and shooting the breeze. He should be relaxing, but he is not. A friend is berating him for not being with him when he needed him in a dangerous situation. The two men argue for a while, but it is just talk. The other man is angry, but he doesn't really want to fight Shannon, because he would loose that fight.

An older man in the same group starts talking about how life is empty and meaningless if you don't leave something behind for others after you are gone. He rambles on inarticulately, but the point gets across. Shannon hangs his head. A tear rolls down his cheek. He and the man who is talking share a common regret. He walks the lonely streets. He works at an impersonal office and listens to people's stories about traffic accidents and injuries, but his mind seems elsewhere.

Shannon collects his money, pays off a debt he owes to his mother and a debt to a loan shark. He looks at a map of New York State. He packs a backpack and buys a bus ticket. He is getting away from the city, away from people. He gets off the bus at Pine Hill. He heads into wild country. He sees a black bear at the edge of a forest. Man and bear stare at each other. If there was a fight between this bear and this man, it is not clear who would win.

Because this film is so short, the lack of editing on some shots isn't intolerable, but it is irritating. The pace of the film is very slow. It looks like it needed some more scenes to flesh it out and that scenes were being stretched out too long to achieve some goal of minimum length. The film is interesting primarily because it is so unpredictable and because of the primal, gut-level nature of this existential story. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)