2017Directed By: Daniel Peddle
Starring: Mitchell Slaggert, Christene Marzano, Billy Ray Suggs Jr.
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is an awkward time. While the physical transformation has occurred the emotional side of things tends to lag behind. We often wear the suit of a man before becoming one. Maturity is a non-linear path with many detours and regressions. Or as Mary (Marzano) would say "once a child, always a child."
On his 18th birthday, Moss (Slaggert) is ready to leave home and start a new life. He hopes to escape from what he sees as the oppressive watch of his father(Suggs). He lives in an isolated southern community where there are more Alligators than Starbucks. While life in no way appears to be easy for Moss, there is an inherent beauty and simplicity to his existence. Moss and his friends don't have much in the way of worldly possessions but they do have a generosity and sense of calm that's lacking in suburban America. In many ways the inhabitants of this rustic riverside community are far richer than is readily apparent.
Moss's father is an outsider artist who collects driftwood to make his pieces. Slaggert was discovered by Peddle while he was on his way to class. Something about Slaggert caught his attention so he abandoned his academic schedule for the afternoon and doubled back to give him his card. Peddle enjoys working with what he sees as "raw" talent. In many ways Peddle is like the father character in MOSS. Both artists work with their surroundings and find the beauty and power of objects or people that may have been overlooked by traditional artists.
This style of casting gives MOSS a natural tone that plays in contrast to vivid frames he composes. While the world he shoots feels lived in and real, it also has an other worldly quality that explodes with color. In fact MOSS has one of the most impressive color pallets I've seen in quite sometime.
After the first act of the film Moss and Mary partake on a psychedelic journey in a brutal but alluring landscape. I couldn't imagine eating mushrooms that close to alligators. But these guys seem to be fine with it. Then again Moss (earlier in the film) also has a bowl of sugary cereal topped with Sprite as a milk substitute. And if that wasn't enough, he's eating it from what appears to be a... dog bowl? I think. While the film makes no effort to make this lifestyle look appealing, it also never passes judgment. We never feel the hand of the director leading us to judge his characters. Its almost as if the film is setup as a litmus test. You can probably tell a great deal about a person by how they react to these characters and their world.
MOSS just screened at LAFF and it was one of this years highlights.