Film

The Frontier Is the Setting for a Tense Family Reunion

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To properly convey how much time Professor Sean Sullivan (Max Gail) spends verbalizing his stream of consciousness and/or reading Walt Whitman aloud in The Frontier would be difficult.

His estranged son, a ranch hand who goes by his middle name of Tennessee (Coleman Kelly) and has come to visit the old man because he senses his father is ill, calls the professor’s chatter The Sean Sullivan Show — the urge to change the channel is strong.

Recognizing the need to filter these rambling thoughts, the retiree hires Nina (Anastassia Sendyk) as an apprentice/editor to assist him with his memoirs. As father and son argue endlessly about why Tennessee left the homestead in the first place, audiences will be made to feel as uncomfortable by this tense, impromptu family reunion as she is.

There’s clearly a troubled history here, but co-writer/director Matt Rabinowitz doesn’t artfully withhold information so much as lay it all on the table a bit earlier than he might have. “You’ve lived what I’ve talked about — you’ve given meaning to my words,” the patriarch tells his son after Nina, whose job description apparently includes family therapy, forces them to work out their issues.

Things improve considerably once both they and the film as a whole mellow out, as Rabinowitz handles reconciliation better than conflict, but the reprieve is short-lived.