With a Hitchcockian score and credit sequence, Scalene immediately draws the viewer into its incredibly well-written, well-performed and well-captured story. Through the different points of view, the film tells the tale of Paige Alexander (Hanna Hall from Rob Zombie’s Halloween), a college girl who has taken on caring for Jakob Tremble, a 26 year old who suffered brain damage years before which left him mute and childlike. His over-protective mother, Janice (Margot Martindale from Dexter) may or may not be abusing him out of frustration with his disabilities interfering with her life.
May or may not: that is the beauty of the movie.
While most films are told from one angle, sometimes leaving few questions as for motive and drive of characters, Scalene gives options for the audience to choose from. Twists, turns and moments of enlightenment make for an enjoyable ride that is unlike most movies made these days.
Margo Martindale’s performance alone is worth watching this movie. If anyone remembers her brief yet powerful performance as Camilla on Dexter, they remember she is brutally convincing in character. She brings it again to the role of Janice. In a simple scene where Janice and her boyfriend sit in a diner – discussing Jakob and his condition – Janice picks at a piece of chocolate cake. That brief moment, Martindale’s acting captures the grand love and, at the same time, irritation, Janice feels.
Hanna Hall brings the same obvious devotion to her craft. Paige is almost a real person as she cares for Jakob, finding painful bruises on his body. Hall’s face alone evokes so many emotions in a simple crunch that her heart wrenching performance of someone trying to save a poor young man from possible abuse is awesome. The story from her point of view flows flawlessly and her chemistry with Adam Scarimbolo’s Jakob completes the film. Scarimbolo’s ability to pull of Jakob’s condition is uncanny. Watching the simple repeated motions he makes throughout the film – and how believable they are – it’s upsetting that he hasn’t secured bigger roles in his career. An amazing scene is him in the simple act of brushing his teeth. Yes, brushing his teeth.
While Scalene is full of marvelous acting, the true star of this movie is the crew behind it – starting with Zach Parker and Brandon Owen crafting a formidable script. Being a simple, relevant story, the two made each point of view unique and vibrant. There are multiple twists and turns – some of which required a second viewing on my part to catch. And even with a second viewing, I was far from bored. I was still intrigued and in awe. The editing of each story – told backwards, scattered, linear – is incredibly refreshing. While most stories are stuck with everything laid out and quite obvious, Scalene offers incredible depths beyond its three points of view. Each story flows into the next and the dedication and passion are completely shown.
The crews’ dedication is definitely shown in the Blu-ray edition – which includes a 3.5 hour documentary on the making of the film – Perceiving Reality: The Making of Scalene. While a long watch, seeing the craft behind the scenes is thorough and interesting.
As humans, we all have moments in our lives where we encounter someone – anywhere from a narrowed encounter to a sequence of brief moments – and feel a drive to help them in their situation. Sometimes the negative consequences of trying to help someone outweigh the possible positive outcomes. Scalene is definitely a thriller that surveys this, testing the waters from three points of view.