This Is Martin Bonner Achieves Authenticity Through a Low-Key Lens


Martin Bonner (Paul Eenhoorn), pushing 60, lives a simple life, but that doesn’t mean he’s simple-minded, or incapable of surprising people with his insight. Born in Australia (like Eenhoorn himself) but raised in America, Martin has just moved to Reno, Nevada, where he begins working for a Christian outreach group that provides mentors to newly released convicts. Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette), meanwhile, is fresh out of prison, and so weighed down by guilt and regret that he can barely walk. In writer-director Chris Hartigan’s daringly low-key film, Martin takes Travis under his wing, and, slowly, beat by beat, a friendship is built. This Is Martin Bonner isn’t exciting, but it’s also never dull. By calling on his leads to underplay nearly every moment, Hartigan calls into question our deeply ingrained instinct, as moviegoers, to witness a steady parade of amped-up emotions. When Travis tells the story behind his imprisonment, and Martin in turn reveals his own haunted past, the scene is so quiet and simply staged—just a couple of guys talking in a coffee shop—that their words gain a painful authenticity. Martin’s gift for listening closely ultimately calms Travis’s jittery heart, an effect that may spread to audiences as well.