First-time director Marcia Kimpton delves into emotional and mental turmoil as the Bardo Blues protagonist escapes his grief by venturing to Thailand. In a unique blend of faith-centered indie drama and bizarre thriller, Kimpton takes risks to show the depths of overcoming inner demons. (BKP: 3.5/5)
Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky
Beautifully shot by Justin and Ian McAleece, this Thailand-set story picks up with Jack (Stephen McClintic) as he arrives in this new country in search for his estranged mother and answers for his abandonment. We follow him as he starts anew, trying to overcome the emotional battles of a troubled past, his addiction to drugs and his overall self-inflicted issues.
While he searches for his mother, Jack befriends an American (a hotel manager played by Kimpton herself) as well as not-so-well intentioned people who suck him back down the rabbit hole of dark, destructive behavior. Released at an appropriate time, when moviegoers seem fascinated with all things weird a la Jordan Peele, Bardo Blues might be the thing that they are looking for. What sets it apart, however, is the unexpected spiritual element that some may find cheesy and others may find hopeful. I found it closer to the latter – and ending that feels rewarding after following Jack’s not-so-easy road to get there.
McClintic portrays this “man vs. himself” plot well, making his inward journey more intriguing than the outward one. Similar to a Stephen King-like mindbender at times, the thriller aspect in the film is sometimes disturbing, but that seems like the point. It aims to make you feel it – discomfort, anxiety, nervousness. It all feels like part of Kimpton and co-writer Anthony Taylor’s goal: to raise awareness about mental health.
The aforementioned cinematographers Justin and Ian McAleece are worth mentioning again, here, as the setting of this film becomes a character on its own. The breathtaking views of Thailand and tones of the film are perfectly matched with the conflict of the characters. They show their talent in capturing the daylight of paradise and the darkness of despair; both beautifully executed in their own ways and a highlight of the film.
However messy the story feels, at times, the film shows the effects a debilitating disability and the overwhelming power of grief; admirable and needed throughout Jack’s story. It leaves you reflecting on life’s biggest questions and whether or not you believe there’s something “more.” Despite the disjointed, far-reaching moments, the film is philosophical, spiritual and meaningful – and most importantly, all profits for Bardo Blues go to Onemind.org for Brain Health Research.
© Brigid K. Presecky (5/3/19) FF2 Media
Photo credits: Athena8 Productions
Q: Does Bardo Blues pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?