Joy and heartache at a time when life was easy.
SKATELAND (2010) is a film directed by Anthony Burns and co-written by Anthony Burns, Heath Freeman, and Brandon Freeman and is set in the early 1980’s in a small Texas town where dramatic events force 19-year old Ritchie Wheeler to look at his life in a different way. The film is the directorial debut of Anthony Burns whom, like many indie film artists, went without the benefit of a studio budget. The film was the dream child of sibling writers Brandon and Heath Freeman, who were trying to find just the right idea for a story that they could write together. The result: a nostalgic coming-of-age tale, and a visual trip back in time to East Texas, 1983.
Ritchie Wheeler’s life is perfect. Rock and roll music, his job at Skateland, and the best friends any guy could have. Except–his world is about to change. Ritchie (Fernandez) just finished high school, and with the constant pressure from his younger sister Mary (Ramm) and his sometime girlfriend Michelle (Greene), looks for opportunity outside of their small town–Ritchie is reluctant; instead, he’d much rather hang out with his two best friends and work at the local roller rink. When his best friend Brent (Freeman) comes back to town, he uses his arrival as an excuse to put off any life-altering decisions about the rapidly impending future. It isn’t until a couple devastating misfortunes that force Ritchie to realize that his complacent lifestyle will have to change, or he shall succumb to the monotony that is his small Texas town.
The film is successful in capturing the air of the time–wardrobe, music, the atmosphere was done painstakingly well. Beautifully filmed and cinematically engaging. Unfortunately–these were the only truly good things about the film. The film suffered from its slow, methodical pace in storytelling. In truth, the problematic elements in the main character’s life: parents divorcing; closing of the roller rink; death of a close friend, granted, were valid dilemmas for content–but the film and characters seem as if both were wandering aimlessly about these events haphazardly and even though viewers are adequately immersed in the film surroundings, it does little to enhance the interest in the film’s characters. An example of this would be during the opening of the film, the camera pans around Ritchie Wheeler’s room and viewers observe the many awards he has won for writing, and we even get to see him typing away at an old computer–and that’s it. No more depth of what he was writing about or his future interests in writing. He has a wealthy friend, Kenny Crawford (Handley), who often speaks of his sister and his parents pipe business–and that’s it.
Overall, the film has an enjoyable atmosphere. Too bad the characters were only used as ‘one-dimensional’ ornaments in the film.