Loggerheads (2005)

At the end of the Wednesday night screening of Loggerheads at aGLIFF, nobody applauded. I think everyone was too bummed out to do so.

Loggerheads is one of those slow-moving films where everyone is miserable throughout.

Tess Harper plays Elizabeth, the wife of a preacher named Robert (Chris Sarandon), who worries about how her runaway son is doing. Bonnie Hunt is Grace, a woman wondering what happened to the baby she gave up when she was a teenager. Then there’s Mark, a drifter with a fascination for loggerhead turtles, who shows up at the beach where gay widower George owns a motel.

It takes a while for the three stories to converge into one. The inertia of Elizabeth’s and Robert’s life makes viewers wonder just why we should care about them, while it’s clear from the start Grace is messed up and tortured about a lost son.

The big reveal, of course, happens when Elizabeth encounters a person from Mark’s past, and asks her how her son is doing.

As the story progresses and more of the characters’ histories are revealed, Loggerheads could have taken some very feel-good plot conventions. And it doesn’t.

The stubborn preacher remains stubborn. The reunion between Grace and her son happens, but not in the way that’s expected.

The film messes with time in too subtle a way. Listen closely to the news reports — you may think they’re background noise, but they establish an important aspect of the story.

And does it really take a year before George and Mark finally have sex? I mean, damn …

Loggerheads is a quiet, contemplative film with a realism that doesn’t provide much comfort. But it’s a satisfying experience, nonetheless.

UPDATE [04/02/2006]: I rented Loggerheads to watch it a second time. I didn’t notice the location captions that begin each section of the story. They even list the year the events happen. Now that I get a better sense of the timeline, I realize it didn’t take so long for Mark and George to hook up.

Watching it a second time, it seemed some of the exposition goes out of its way to spell the characters out. And there’s a very subtle humor at the start that lightens what turns into a wrenching story.

What’s even more admirable is the minimalism of the dialogue. There are so many mundane conversations in the film, but as the film progresses, they take on weight. Something as simple as choosing Ruth as a reading for a Mother’s Day sermon becomes a turning point later.

Loggerheads has lost none of its resonance the first time I watched it. Pick it up on your way to buy Brokeback Mountain on DVD on Tuesday, April 4.