A name means more than just a name.
Dir. Matthew Gordon‘s The Dynamiter (2011) is a Mississippi drama that centers around Robbie (William Patrick Ruffin), a 14-year old who incidentally found himself the man of the house after his mother abandons him and his 8 year-old half-brother Fess (John Alex Nunnery); she does this after deciding that raising two boys and an aging parent are too much for her to deal with. In Glen Allan, Mississippi, Robbie and Fess spend their isolated summer days playing medieval sword fighting games in the hay field during their days, and nights hoping their mother returns so they can become a family again. Robbie will soon face the fact that this dream may never come true.
Robbie was caught stealing on his last day of school from a locker by the school counselor. The counselor, instead of suspending him from the school, gave him an assignment to complete over the summer. Robbie was to write about his life–a personal essay in the hopes that by documenting his mischievousness actions will some how change his path in life. Robbie began his essay the importance of a man’s name, and the meaning of family–something that he dearly hoped for. Most of the time, Robbie and his brother Fess just move around town, stealing cokes from the machine and checking for any coins that may have rolled underneath the machines. With no role models, or friends for that matter, Robbie was a shirtless, ticking time bomb. Living in poverty, constantly getting into it with the boys from his neighborhood and fighting all the time–you think that it was only a matter of time that he would go off the deep end. Instead, the film just moseyed along much like Robbie and Fess, not really going anywhere.
A stoic, Southern drama.
The same was true of Robbie’s older brother, Lucas (Patrick Rutherford). A former high-school star quarterback who earned a full scholarship to an ivy league school. Instead, he spent much of his time drinking beer and chasing girls to make any difference in his life. He told Robbie that he wasn’t the type to have his face buried in books. At this point in the film, when Lucas returns home and begins picking up on the local women in town, there is an underlying element there for some good familiar drama, but this too, ran flat.
This isn’t to say that the film wasn’t without its high points. Despite the film being a low-budget feature, The Dynamiter is a poignant, slow-burning drama that allows the viewer to look in on a family living an uncompromising way of life. Director Gordon told this stoic, Southern tale without any bias, only revealing the raw realities of poverty, and the fundamental goodness in his characters. The sad thing about this film is that there is no happy ending. The social services get involved, the invisible hand that pulls apart at these already fragile personalities. It is amazing that neither of them went off the deep end, considering the determent of their circumstances.
Overall, the film fell short in which direction it wanted to go. Much like the film’s main, mostly shirtless wanderer Robbie–combing though the mosquito-thick swamps and the barren Mississippi countrysides without a clue on where to go next.