Mark Lewis’ Baystate Blues is subtitled “An Intimate Epic” and however you feel about the christening of an epic, or the definition of the word, unfortunately this full length debut for the director is a disappointment for a number of reasons.
Baystate Blues is the tale of one day in the life of a couple, Mike (Scott Lewis) and Devon (Allyson Sereboff), six months removed from a horrific accident that left Devon mentally and physically scared. Her struggle to regain composure in her relationship and everything else in her life is the primary focus of the film; however ample time is given to her two sisters, Virginia (Sharon Maguire) and Alex (Steffi Kammer) and how they intertwine with the plot. There’s a subplot about Virginia and her attempts to reconcile and rekindle a past relationship with Jason (Joe Tuttle), but at its core the movie is really about the struggles of Mike and Devon.
The main problem is that, with such a small cast of characters, it’s nearly impossible to find one to identify with or really find attractive as a person. Devon, even though suffering Post-Traumatic Stress, comes off as whiny and annoying throughout the entire feature, and while this may be intentional, the film’s ending with her regaining clarity on her life is both open-ended and too little, too late for the audience’s relationship with the character. Her sisters present themselves as the 2D caricatures of the tough-on-the-outside but emotional-on-the-inside female who goes from hating men to accepting marriage by the end of 89 minutes, and the flighty, quirky sibling is involved in one of the movie’s most oft-putting plot twists. It isn’t like you don’t see the adulterous revelations at the end of the film coming, but you almost hoped it didn’t happen as it does no real service to the characters or the film as a whole.
Lewis’ script just doesn’t paint anything new on this canvas as the plot is slow at times and awkward dialog and an extremely long shoot at a stone church during one of Mike’s normal working days just make the film drag on rather than build up the suspense or drama towards a suitable conclusion. As mentioned before, the climax itself is left so open ended that it almost does a disservice to the viewer not knowing how things turn out but by now you’ve lost all hope for the characters.
On the technical side of things Lewis maintains a rather static camera on the action, even during a mid-film and ending musical montage to progress things along. The montages themselves are done well and the chosen scenery, like the aforementioned church, is beautiful to look at and shoot around.
While this “epic” does tighten things up towards the end of the film, with its driveway fight club and the needless will-they-won’t-they questions, the preceding hour just did so much to muddle and drag the audience along that they just might not care anymore. This all comes down to the characters and how hard they are to follow and identify with, with roughly half a dozen interacting there just needs to be something unique, different, and most importantly, likeable, about them for a viewer to show any attachment and emotion as they make some of the biggest choices in their lives.