You made plans for a cosy movie night ? Are you sitting all comfortably in your seat buried under bags of chips and a bottle of Coca-Cola at your fingertips? Then I advise you to put on another movie than Little Accidents because this movie won’t make you happy. Not even a little bit. It shows a series of truly sad and depressing circumstances and occurrences. A fatal mine accident leaving 10 miners dead, an unfortunate incident with consequences, the wrenching dilemmas, the immense grief after losing a loved one, not knowing what’s the fate of a missing person and the misunderstanding within a marriage. It’s all included in this social drama, set in a dying town that looks so gray as if it was covered by a layer of coal dust. A story about two people in this “village without a future” whose lives run parallel, without them realizing it, with several points of contact : a dramatic event, the grueling truth that they keep secret and the decision whether or not to reveal it. Eventually, these parallel lines intersect and end in the same way.
Little Accidents is a melodrama in which various interest groups are diametrically opposed to each other. On the one hand you have the working people whose lives depend on whether or not they close the Bonford Coal Company. And on the other you have the representatives of the victims and the unions who want to sue the company for negligence and pursuit of profit on the back of the underprivileged workers, making them work in hazardous conditions. Just like Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holbrook) did. He’s the sole survivor of the mine accident. After a rehab, he returned to his town in West Virginia and finds himself immediately confronted with this dilemma. He’s constantly harassed by both interest groups. At the same time we meet Owen Briggs (Jacob Lofland), son of one of the victims in this mine disaster. His mother Kendra (Chloë Sevigny) tries to pick up the thread again, while Owen takes care of his younger brother James (Beau Wright), an endearing little boy who has Down syndrome. Although Kendra overwhelms both boys with electronic gizmos, Owen is still struggling to integrate into the community and seeks the company of a group of young people who in the end only bully and exploit him.
The central figure of this group of young people is JT Doyle (Travis Tope), son of Bill (Josh Lucas) and Diane Doyle (Elizabeth Banks), leader and the one who turns up to be missing one day. The only one who knows the true facts about this disappearance, is Owen. But anxiously he keeps his mouth shut about it. This ensures the parents of JT facing a period of long waiting for the outcome of the investigation. The reason why this secret remains with Owen, is the fact that JT’s father is one of the board members of the coal mine, who could be responsible for the fatal accident. Probably Owen thinks he could be accused of acting in an act of revenge. The moment the statement of lightning will be seen as untrue, his position as a director of this company will be practically untenable. Diane suffers the most under the disappearance of her son, while father Bill launches himself entirely into his work, and feels more and more neglected which leads to a surprising affair. The result is that the lives of Amos, Owen and Diana get intermingled because of these circumstances.
It’s a pretty depressing film. Don’t expect smiling faces. It feels more like a competition in “who looks the most depressing”. Holbrook plays a surprising role as the half-crippled laborer who’s facing a difficult choice. The choice between the relatives of the victims and the non-affected who still benefit from the fact that the only industry in their town still exists. The helplessness and at the same time the shame of being the only survivor, is written all over his face. “It was a waste to save me,if you think about it. I ain’t got no family, no kids,” as he admitted himself. Also Lofland (known for his role as a helpful teen in Mud) plays an outstanding role. That intolerable burden he’s carrying is played by him in a masterful way. Even in the quiet moments you can see that suffering. Elizabeth Banks (known for her role as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games) manages to bring a difficult role to a successful conclusion. She has no problems to bring a mix of diverse emotions: pride, despair, reconciliation, loneliness and dejection. All in all a talented cast.
Little Accidents isn’t a perfect film and has a tendency to become cheesy. It’s only sadness you witness and some used themes aren’t very original. After a while I got the feeling that it surely was overly packed with gloomy events. But in retrospect you can only admit that this is just part of everyday life. However, the lived through renditions and worked out characters ensure that this gloomy and dark film still makes a good impression. In other words, a wonderful film that shows how disaster can strike mercilessly.
Little Accidents is available now on DVD and on demand.
For more of Peter Pluymers’ movie reviews, check out My Opinion as a Movie-Freak
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television