Review: The Trunk

The Trunk is an emotional journey through the lives of two old friends reunited years after seperating.
Written by James Orrell
After viewing writer/director Stephanie Hensley's previous two films, Dane Granger and the short film Mommy Mommy, it would be safe to say that I am a fan. Stephanie has a unique style of writing that is both brash and subtle. Needless to say, I have been eagerly anticipating her newest film The Trunk. I recently got the chance to view it and was left feeling shocked at just how much she has grown in such a short period of time.
The Trunk is an emotional film. Moreso, it's got a much wider range of emotions than anything she has previously released. It follows two childhood friends that reunite later in life. The connection between the two characters, Jude and Devon, is the heart and soul of the film. It follows them after Devon leaves her abusive husband to return to her home and friend Jude.  I won't say much more about the plot so as to avoid spoilers, but believe me when I say that it is one of the best journeys that I have ever been taken on that relies primarily on one location. That one location has a lot to do with the film as a strong part of their past is tied to Jude's home. 
The film stars Joshua Donaldson as Jude and Erin Butusov as Devon and if either of these two actors faulted at all, the film wouldn't work. I was beyond impressed with their work. Each one of them brought layers to their characters that are revealed wonderfully over the course of The Trunk. Both Joshua and Erin give grounded performances that made Jude and Devon feel incredibly real to me. That's perhaps the highest compliment that I can give an actor, if you ask me. They also possessed a wonderfully natural chemistry that was one of the strongest aspects of the film. Kudos to both of them for giving me two of the best performances I have seen all year.
I mentioned before how impressed I was by Stephanie Hensley's growth as a writer and director and I seriously meant it. The writing here takes a nice, deliberate pace without making either of the main characters feel over the top. Her directing here is easily the best she has done so far. There are shots that are incredibly well framed. Her use of washed out colors at appropiate times give moments a bigger punch that makes the emotions of the film bleed through the screen. If she keeps improving like this, then the sky is the limit. 
Now, I had the unique position of seeing this film both before and after the film's score had been put into the film. Having this experience really helped me appreciate the film's music and it's effect on the tone of the film even more than I usually do. I've always thought that music can make or break a film and wow is that ever true here. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the film before the score was put in. What I am saying is that the music makes the movie transcend from being a good film to a great film. 
Most of the film's music is recorded and performed by stars Joshua Donaldson and Erin Butusov. The talent that they put into it is astounding. The music is hauntingly beautiful and perhaps my favorite aspect of the film. I would absolutely listen to it over and over again.
So, with this much praise there has to be a few negatives, right? Of course there are. The actor that played Devon's husband really did nothing for me. I didn't buy his performance at all. He was meant to be threatening but never once did I really feel it from him. Erin's performance, however, helped me overlook that and continue with the film's journey.
There are moments that can be slow for viewers expecting more oomph in the film. I don't personally view that a negative to film, but some others might. It's a slow burn and if you go in expecting that, you are in for a treat.
Lastly, some parts of the film could stand for better lighting. At times it can be hard to see what's all transpiring on screen. It does help the mood of the film but it had to be said.
Overall though, The Trunk represents Stephanie Hensley's most superior film to date. It's a well written, well acted and generally well shot film that has superb music and a great twist at the end. I recommend it to anyone that wants to see a great performance piece from two highly talented actors in independent cinema. It's a heartbreaking journey well worth taking.