Movie Review: "Tumbledown" (2016)

With apologies, this is one of those reviews where I’m going to get into spoiler territory. Why? Because I loved so much of what Sean Mewshaw’s “Tumbledown” was doing and then it took a turn and really let me down. For me to adequately discuss the movie, I have to discuss the turn and in discussing the turn I have to say what happens in the film and so… spoiler.

Now that I have scared everyone away, I’m going to say that this spoiler for “Tumbledown” isn’t a massive spoiler because it’s exactly what everyone will expect going into the movie, but there is this bright and shining hour when it seems like “Tumbledown” isn’t going to go there before it decides that there’s simply no other way to finish things out before the credits roll.

Okay, taking a deep breath and stepping back to discus the larger movie, “Tumbledown” stars Rebecca Hall as Hannah, a recent widow. She lost her husband who was on the verge, some believe, of incredible music stardom before falling to his death of the side of a mountain. Hannah is also a writer and wants to put together a biography on her husband.

Enter Jason Sudeikis’ Andrew, a NY professor and music aficionado who would like to include Hannah’s husband in a book he’s writing. The two join forces to write a single book, Hannah can offer the up-close and personal bits of insight whereas Andrew can give it the critical distance and perspective it needs.

At this point you’re thinking that Hannah and Andrew will end up together and of course they will (see, spoilers). But, here’s the thing – there is this great, truly fantastic, hour or so of the film where the two just get to know each other platonically; where they figure out how this whole business relationship is going to work; where they see if they can trust each other to do this job. This portion of the film is funny and it’s smart and it’s touching. There are moments of real sadness as Hannah contemplates the man she lost and Andrew figures out just what Hannah saw in him and he in her. It is real and shows how two people of the opposite sex maybe, possibly, could just be friends.

Before the credits roll, they fall in love and walk off into the sunset (there’s that spoiler again) and this walking off into the sunset really ruins so much of what came before. There is no reason for it.

“Tumbledown” is a small, independent movie about a small, independent singer and the small town life he fell in love with and left behind. It is about that hole inside of us when we lose a loved one and about how no matter how far away that loss gets and how much we learn to live around the loss, the hole remains. Turning it into a love story between Hannah and Andrew feels like the moment when some free-spirited independent artist signs a multi-million dollar contract with a major distributor/label/production company and starts making something wholly different than what came before. Except, here, it’s done mid-album as opposed to after a major success.

In short, “Tumbledown” goes from being a quirky but serious story about how we cope with loss and friends to typical romantic comedy, pulling the rug out from underneath its audience and in doing so spoils great supporting performances from Blythe Danner and Richard Masur who appear as Hannah’s parents.

“Tumbledown” is currently available in theaters and on demand.


photo credit: Starz Digital

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