"Five people. Five days. Five deaths" is the tagline of the debut feature film
Five Lines from
Brainbox Productions, the same company that produced the groundbreaking Discovery Channel series,
Using the Washington, DC, metro system as a starting point was brilliant. Each colored subway line has a corresponding story, main character, and mood. The red line features Kathryn Everson (Emily Townley), a young woman who is juggling the attentions of her current boyfriend and ex-husband; the blue line concerns the thoughtless actions of soldier Mike Catalano (Nat Taylor) and their unexpected consequences; riding the yellow line is homeless woman Anna Washington (Josette Murray-Ballo) who befriends a teenage boy whose friends had harrassed her; the green line shows us the consequences of scam artist Bench Midas (co-writer, and Jay Mohr lookalike, Christian Zonts) and his partner L.J. (editor Craig Moorhead) when they get in over their heads in a pyramid scheme; and a runaway (Marianna Houston) with a medical condition is the subject of the orange line section.
After a choppy start, the stories begin to develop in various ways, all focusing on the last five days in these people's lives. That they all die at the same moment is a stretch but it works. The most involving story was that of the red line and Emily Townley is entirely believable as the manipulating Kathryn, playing with the affections of two very different men in order to get her desperate needs met. She balances the complexities of her character's neediness and conniving sides with apparent ease. Her ending is dramatically appropriate if not narratively so, seeming forced in its attempt to intersect with another character's death.
Other acting kudos go to Josette Murray-Ballo as the homeless woman, who was entirely natural in her delivery and made me believe for two hours that she had come from the streets; also to Moorhead as L.J., who nails his relatively small part and steals every scene by underplaying. On the down side, the runaway's arc was not developed sufficiently enough to engage my emotions. It could have easily been left out with no harm to the overall tone of the film--"Four Lines" would have been just as good if not better.
Nevertheless, Five Lines is completely engrossing. Zonts and director Nick Panagopolous have created fully developed characters that make you care about them in spite of the often stupid decisions they make, and the film rewards multiple viewings. Being familiar with the storyline leaves that part of my mind free to notice the details, the scenery, and the craft that went into making such a quality film on a small budget. The filmmakers' passion for their brainchild is evident in every scene, making
Five Lines a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Extras on the
Five Lines DVD include a ten-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that consists about 50/50 of clips from the film and the Brainbox crew hilariously berating each other for not pulling their weight. Also, two clips of local DC news programs promoting the film, including an interview with director Panagopolous and editor/actor Moorhead, are shown along with the inevitable trailer. A commentary would have been nice, but, for an independent release, this is way more than I expected in the way of extras.
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