How much does it cost to make an independent film? If you ask writer/director Shawn Holmes, he will tell you it cost less than $300 to create Memory Lane (2012). According to the filmmaker, he spent $280 on food for his actors and $6 on a 4-ounce bottle of fake blood. From a visual bang-for-your-buck standpoint, Memory Lane has to be one of the elite modern-day Indie Films. Unfortunately the story just doesn’t quite resonate.
Nick Boxer (Michael Allen) has returned home from serving in the Armed Forces and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. One night he meets a young woman named Kayla (Meg Barrick) who is awkwardly standing alone on a bridge. He quickly deduces that it is Kayla’s intention to commit suicide by hurling herself into the river below. Boxer interrupts her, but later finds himself falling…for the mysterious woman.
Boxer and Kayla’s love affair blossoms, so he purchases a house for them to live in together. Shortly afterward he buys Kayla an engagement ring. The torrid romance ends abruptly when Kayla does finally kill herself in the couple’s bathroom tub. Distraught, Boxer finds that Kayla’s wrist is sliced open but he is convinced that she has been murdered.
Desperate to find Kayla’s killer, Boxer has his friends stop his heart through electrical shocks, effectively killing him. This process allows Boxer to revisit crucial memories, so that he can uncover clues and discover what really happened to the love of his life. Unfortunately, his perilous excursions are quickly deteriorating his body. Can Boxer cheat death long enough to discover the enigma surrounding his fiancée’s perplexing death?The film feels a little bit like Flatliners (1990) and is akin to The Butterfly Effect (2004). Firstly, Boxer is obsessed with killing himself (Flatliners), so that he can return to “memory lane.” Secondly, he is desperate to repeat this process because he is convinced that doing so will help him save Kayla’s life (The Butterfly Effect). The manner in which the script is written, however, does nothing to indicate that Boxer’s actions will ever undo the heinous event.
The fact is that each time Boxer returns from his deadly jaunts nothing has changed for him. There are no ripples in time that have altered the present upon his return. Yes, his friends are always freaked out because he kills himself repeatedly, but his journeys change nothing in their present–ever. This is an enormous hole in the story if the filmmaker is trying to convince an audience that the protagonist is actually traveling back through time with a chance of altering the past. There is just no evidence to offer support that Boxer’s trips will enable him to save Kayla.Further complicating matters is that Holmes admits in DVD’s commentary that the majority of the film, from the point Boxer first kills himself until the very end, is one large “memory lane.” This is where the picture gets a little too clever for its own good.
Actor Robert Englund once said in an interview that the entire film A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was a precognitive dream that the heroine Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) was having and that nothing Freddy (Englund) had done in the movie had happened yet. According to Englund, Freddy is just fixing to begin his killing spree as the convertible, featuring Freddy’s stripes, drives away at the end.
This was Englund’s intellectual attempt to explain Elm Street’s multiple and confusing endings. It appears Holmes is trying a similar type of cerebral ploy when it comes to Memory Lane. Yes, almost everything in Memory Lane has apparently already happened, but so what? It is an interesting theory, but it doesn’t answer the question: Can Boxer’s actions save Kayla’s life?
Memory Lane is one of those cases when the story just tries to be too smart for its own good. Then again, perhaps it’s a complete misinterpretation that Boxer can change things by revisiting his memories. If that’s the case though, why does Boxer keep insisting to his friends that he can save Kayla? Is it all in his mind, as the movie apparently is? Anyone want a Tylenol yet? Sadly, Memory Lane ends up more convoluted than clever.While the story is a big problem with the film, Memory Lane is one of those exquisite gems of cinema where everything else falls into place. If not for some poor audio and visual graininess, laced in some of the film’s scenes, especially exterior locations, the movie would be a perfect example of independent cinema.
Undoubtedly, some of the audio problems arose from Holmes having to serve as the camera operator and audio tech all at the same time. Additionally, a high ISO must have been required while filming, which explains the on-screen grain. But Holmes shot this visually remarkable independent film, which looks pristine, for under $300 with a Canon T2i DSLR camera. That is incredible!
The direction, cinematography and editing are second-to-none. The music sets an eerie and haunting mood, while the acting of both lead performers Allen and Barrick is absolutely sensational. The pair has an electric, sexual chemistry and both prove time and time again throughout the film that their respective ranges as thespians are without limits.
The DVD is loaded with bonus materials, but the best of the bunch is the director’s commentary. Holmes discusses every step along the way, in detail, that he took from pre- to post-production. It’s an insightful behind-the-scenes story of Memory Lane that really must be heard. In addition, there are three deleted scenes. The first, and most intriguing, is the original opening to film. There are also two more scenes featuring Boxer and his best buds.
Next, there are two short films, which include the teaser for Holmes’ upcoming project Rockabye. The second short is titled “Lamp Post” and it takes a serious look at glory of love and the unforgiving pain associated with its loss. There are also several promotional videos included on the DVD, which were used to promote Memory Lane before its release.
There is an original teaser trailer among the marketing videos and several interviews with the cast and crew, including actor Michael Allen and co-writer Hari Sathappan. Lastly, there is a 3-minute screen test and six movie trailers including Memory Lane, Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead, The Mothman Curse, Everywhen, Desolate and Sweet Leaf.
Despite the filmmaker’s attempt at a very cerebral and cunning narrative, which tailspins into a downward spiral of unanswered questions, the fact remains that Memory Lane is just not that entertaining of a film. This fact doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the lack of budget either, because, for the most part, the picture is technically superior. Sure, small audio issues are irritating at times, but these shortcomings are not enough to yank the viewer out of the experience.
It’s a bit of a conundrum, because there is so much right with the movie: actors, locations, cinematography, editing and direction. However, here we have an exemplification of what happens when all the pieces are in place to make a fantastic film, but you end up with a sub-par screenplay. The script is the project’s blueprint–the lifeblood. It must be perfected, and whipped into shape, if you expect your story to come across successfully on screen.