A film by The Polsky Brothers.

How exciting! I’ve not been asked to review a film before. I didn’t need much persuasion, mind you, mostly because The Motel Life has one of my old favourites, Mr Stephen Dorff, as one of the leads. It also transpires that we get to see him herein both in his Y-fronts and in the nude, just two of the highlights. But seriously, Stephen Dorff is an amazing actor, with and without clothes on, so his role as Jerry Lee Flanigan, one half of the troubled brother duo that this film follows, was a huge pull. Following Jerry Lee and his alcoholic brother, Frankie (‘hell, the loneliest person I know’ says Jerry Lee), the portrayal is one of escapism, or, at least, dreaming of an escape; Frankie played by the equally talented, (and dare I say, attractive?), Emile Hirsch, best known perhaps for his role in ‘Into the wild’. Can I get an ‘amen’?

But I digress again. Based on the popular novel by Willy Vlautin, also lyricist of alt-country band, Richmond Fontaine, The Motel Life is the directorial debut by real-life brothers, Gabe and Alan Polsky, the film apparently a challenge but on the surface as effortlessly cool as it is minimalistic. Not only does David Holmes heavily contribute to the soundtrack -(he of the ‘Oceans’ films fame)- and the musical director worked on Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Django Unchained to name a few- the action is also spattered with the animation of Mike Smith, responsible for the interludes in ‘Natural Born Killers’, each piece giving a dark insight into the minds of our leads, sometimes erotic and perverse, often violent, offering up an edgy, cult feel.

When Jerry Lee loses a leg in an accident (triggering a continuing wave of self-pity and spiraling depression), so begins a tale of what is a pretty intense brotherly love, fuelled by fulfilling a promise to their mother that they always look out for one another. Sometimes there is the sense that this is a sacrifice for Frank- who has seemingly given up quite a large part of his own life to keep an eye on Jerry Lee- as the film progresses, the themes are so simple that by rights it should be quite dull. However, with the strong acting and the dynamic use of art throughout, one finds oneself caring about what happens to these characters, intrigued as to how their journey ends when they flee their native Reno, Nevada, after a ‘hit and run’ leaves Jerry Lee in a spot of bother again.

Add the natural perfomances by Kris Kristofferson- who plays something of a surrogate father figure to Frank- and Dakota Fanning (known for many roles, not least ‘I am Sam’ starring opposite Sean Penn when she was a wee girl and winning lots of awards for her performance), who plays Frank’s failed true love, daughter of a prostitute. But, of course. Still, while it may sound bleak, The Motel Life is actually a very real and touching story about connections between all of us, gritty and disgusting as life can be, but finding solace in the relationships we have. Don’t vomit; we all do it. There aren’t many laughs but it is clear to see why it won best film and the audience award at the Rome International Film festival, amongst other accolades. I won’t spoil the ending. Give it a watch.

Anna C

The Motel Life was in cinemas April 4th, 2014. Google it to see how you can view it now.