SXSW Film: You Must Visit Lebanon, PA

I traveled to SXSW seeking a film that would truly move me; and after days of searching I had some brushes with greatness but nothing really fit the bill, that is until I took the journey to Lebanon, PA.

Lebanon, PA follows Will and CJ  as they struggle with decisions that will change their lives. Will lives in Philadelphia and has just been informed via post-it-note that the father he never knew has died, and now he must pack up his house in the small town of Lebanon. After a promising encounter with Vicki at a local bar, he starts to wonder if a small town life would help with his big city problems. CJ is a 17 year old girl that’s current pregnancy has her struggling with the path she will take and when Will and his left wing bumper stickers roll into town he provides her with the advice that her right wing home town can not.

The presentation of the differing point of views is what makes Lebanon, PA so great. It gives equal thought to both points of views. Will and CJ are learning to change their opinions and discovering themselves through difficult decisions. There is one particularly touching moment when Will is confronted with the reality that his beliefs are too big for this small town.  Politics aside, the film  is so touching that it transcends moral beliefs and gives the audience that direct connection that most films are lacking.

Along with a great moral direction, all of the actors give a tremendous performance, but Rachel Kitson outshines them all in her first film. Her performance as CJ is honest and emotionally overwhelming, so much so that I will be shocked to hear that her theater career hasn’t transcended to  film in the near future. To say that Rachel’s performance was outstanding would be an understatement and I look forward to her next film.

Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town) plays Will with a sense that he had a strong closeness to the material. His emotional range is outstanding, as he shares a strong connection to all the characters that is easily transferred to the the audience.

Director Ben Hickernell and Marc Jeff Schirmer have also created a beautifully vibrant world with the help of the newly developed RED camera. The vibrant colors contrast beautifully against the film’s melancholy tone. Ben not only did a great job with the film’s overall direction, but he also  wrote and edited the film. Doing triple duty in a film can really rattle a director and harm the overall result of the film, but for Hickernell it just helps to show off  his overall talent. Hickernell is a true talent and he should have no problems finding his place in the world of film.

I can’t express enough how much I love this film, the real emotion of the film can only be felt by seeing it’s beauty. It would be a cinematic tragedy if it was not picked up for some form of distribution. It’s stays with you and becomes a part of your inner core making us all residents of Lebanon, PA.

I give Lebanon, PA 5 “I’m not going to cry” 5

by Ryan Davis

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About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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