After the first 20 minutes, I thought ‘I know where this is going.’ Instead, Chasing the Rain cleverly uses the metaphor of rain as relief. What could have been preachy, hammering away at society’s ills, quietly turns into a much grander, very human story posing the question ‘why?’ Or, to be more precise, WTF?
The story sees protagonist Eric return from mission work in Kenya, head filled with big questions and a determination to continue helping people. He turns his home-grown talent for photo-taking into a job doing portraits at the mall. It’s not the greatest, but it pays the bills and leaves him free to continue volunteer work. Then he meets a lovely girl with a nice ‘normal’ family and he believes things are working out.
But somewhere underneath is the dangerous disconnecting thought that none of this is right. And when things go awry, it drives him straight back into hiding. The shift from fitting in and creating a pleasant day-to-day slides subtly into the murk of things going wrong; things neither foreseeable nor preventable. It feels so natural and tangible – the understated descent of someone ill-equipped to manage and unused to receiving heartfelt assistance.
Chasing the Rain (Amazon Prime Video) is Cindy Jansen’s first piece as writer, director and producer. Even with such a big story, possibly a little unwieldy, she knows what she wants to say. Composer Sara Groves overlays subtle emotive music that comfortingly moves you along too.
The natural lighting and cinematography by Lon Stratton contribute a realistic quality, neither softened nor glaring, but pointedly clear. Jansen knows her message but just because she refuses to give her lead an easy triumph, doesn’t mean there isn’t a win to be had.
|Image: Matt Lanter as Eric|
In an interview with TheReviewGeek, Director Jansen talks about wanting to challenge the perception of extreme suffering. In pictures, problems are typically resolvable (within a two-hour run-time). Or they miraculously fade away, often paving way for a moral. She’s keen to delve deep into the concept that some people have more to carry and must ‘white-knuckle’ through life. The narrative is intentionally big – the overwhelming nature of this but a small sample of what some of us face every day.
The dividing line is less ‘have and have-not’ and more zeroed-in on those who get it and those who don’t understand the question. It’s a down-cycle of incessant dehydration of spirit; a slow uncapturable leak dripping past into present like water erosion.
Eric has a recurring dream of a Kenyan woman who lost her baby to drought. It’s the portrait of his own innocence lost. The dreams of self at absolute rock bottom. The most poignant line is uttered in Kenya: ‘I came to this place to feel normal.’ With an unspoken piece left hanging in the air – ‘by comparison.’
Matt Lanter carries the film, with facial expressions that couldn’t be more different from his role as Wyatt in Timeless. As Eric, he’s gauche, embarrassed, delighted, enraged and horrified. You may recognize him from a slew of Star Wars and Marvel TV series as well as Pitch Perfect 3, Disaster Movie, and Star-Crossed.
Helpfully, Stu, performed by Eric Tiede (Modern Family, Famous in Love), adds playful breaks in the action as the awkward well-meaning housemate. Everyone needs that sort of no-questions-asked best friend – part sharpest idiot and part loyal terrier. He leads the bulk of the lighter moments – the white to Lanter’s black.
It’s worth noting that although there are some powerful concepts, it’s not exactly a ‘family’ movie. There’s a gritty reality of folks living outside the societal norm. It’s not graphic, but certainly subject matter where you’d want to guide younger teens.
A LOT happens in this movie – an overflowing package – perhaps tying two movies to one. Yet it also feels true, translating life’s little frustrating messages, like: ‘Shit happens.’ ‘You can’t boil the ocean.’ ‘Bad things happen to good people.’ – outlining the law of negative attraction.
With its vast messages and granular feel, Chasing the Rain is a nod to knowing yourself, trusting the clan you build and doing the thing you think you need to do in whatever small ways you can. Both seeking and creating respite. Thought-provoking and with a satisfying finish, this film hits on a universal truth – the only way to change your fate is to self-deprecatingly change your pattern.