There’s solace to be found in an engaging, down-to-earth drama rich with the sort of essential humanism that seems all but lost in the current cinematic climate, and that’s precisely how one might describe Damian Lahey’s frequently endearing THE HEROES OF ARVINE PLACE. At just 74 minutes, it’s akin to a warm hug from a close friend or relative following a considerable absence and is equally as delightful.
Cullen Moss is marvelous as Kevin, a single father of two young girls who’s just trying to make it through the holidays after losing both his job and his car on the same day. He adopts an attitude of impressive tenacity, and over the course of the next few days, the immensely likable widower does everything in his power to make something – anything – work. Between a Christmas party at his place, a sister in the psych ward, a meeting with one of his literary idols which could determine the future of his hopeful future as a successful children’s book author, and the promise of presents for his daughters; Kevin’s got a lot on his plate, and there’s more to come.
Sure, there’s little here that will challenged a seasoned viewer but this doesn’t appear to be Lahey’s priority, instead honing his energies towards painting an effective portrait of a down-on-his-luck guy during one of the most stressful seasons. There are hints of a deeper underlying sadness here, but it’s kind of admirable how Lahey avoids discussing these things in thorough detail at any point; much like the charming character at its core, the film is just trying not to dwell.
Considering its restricted budget, THE HEROES OF ARVINE PLACE could be seen as a testament to the individual and collective talents on both sides of the camera, and how sometimes a decent feel-good yarn is just fine when crafted with such obvious care. Lahey’s direction and script are assured, and he’s able to get some excellent performances from his cast; Tarina Reed’s photography is simple but not lacking formal depth; and Craig Moorhead’s editing is consistently efficient.
The score, from Brian Jenkins and Naarah Strokosch, is decidedly of a whimsical variety and sometimes threatens to sour the experience ever so slightly; it can feel, at times, almost as if the film is unsure of just how much it wants to indulge in fantasy and/or reality. It’s a middle ground that can feel too close for comfort, but given the material, it feels appropriate. There’s an intuitive empathy and sense of humor here that drowns out these little blemishes, and though the film may wear its heart on its sleeve to a fault, the pull of warmth reigns supreme in the end. It’s fairly easy to surrender to the film’s undeniably uplifting energies when one is in such positively personable company as this.