[LONG WAY TO OBLIVION screens Thursday March 31st at 10:30pm and Saturday April 2nd at 11:00am at the Cleveland International Film Festival.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
A naked man (Tim Schmitz, I believe. The screener I saw had no credits and I had to do my best piecing them together online), apparently under the influence of some sort of hallucinogen, stumbles through the streets. Eventually he winds up at Cleveland rock & roll landmark Pat's in the Flats. I'm pretty sure Pat wouldn't put up with this sort of nonsense, but since she's not in the movie nobody seems too phased by this. It certainly doesn't bother the band, who like most acts playing at Pat's are probably just glad someone who isn't a significant other or relative actually showed up to watch them. So begins LONG WAY TO OBLIVION, a movie about a group of people involved in the Quixotic pursuit that is creating and performing original rock music in Cleveland, Ohio.
Naked Man ends up hanging out with Keith (Brandon Zano), the singer from the band he saw at Pat's, acting as sort of an audience stand-in as he silently observes and occasionally roadies for these would be rock stars seemingly doomed to go nowhere. One character remarks that, “Being a musician in a band in Clevelalnd is the definition of insanity. I don't know what's worse, being an alcoholic or being a musician.” But is it Cleveland's fault, or are these guys just losers with beyond their budget drug habits and delusions of grandeur? Maybe a little bit of both.
Having been a musician in the NE Ohio rock scene myself since the late eighties, albeit one with a slightly less decadent lifestyle, I can feel a definite feeling of truth in many of the characters and situations presented here. Director Shawn Mishak's style is a blend of gritty realism and artsy pretension, with the more straightforward portions of the film working better for me. The film kept me engaged, but the ending just kind of peters out like most of the bands that have called Cleveland home.
Although some supporting players come off a bit amateurish, Zano creates a believable enough character. Since we spend most of our time with him and the silent “naked man” (who does eventually put some clothes on, but I don't believe ever gets a name), that's okay. This is a respectable effort for an ultra low budget, Cleveland-shot film, and I'm always glad to see any local filmmakers do something other than slasher and zombie flicks. But I just couldn't escape the feeling that this is more of a sketch for a film than a finished product. Clocking in at barely an hour, it really feels like there should be a little more here. There's potential here, but ultimately it goes unrealized. 2 out of 4 stars.