‘To Dust’ Review Haiku: Ashes to Ashes, Laughs to Laughs

HAIKU REVIEW

Affecting Humor;
A Quirky Look At Grieving;
Wonderful Acting.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Here is a film from this year’s Cinetopia Film Festival that I wasn’t able to see based on its scheduled time. I was really bummed about that because the trailer looked so promising. So, needless to say, when I found out that I could already stream this on Hoopla, it immediately moved to the top of my list. It is just as delightful as I had hoped it would be, giving a sweet and funny look at grief and an unlikely friendship forged on a strange bond.

When his wife dies of cancer, Shmuel (Géza Röhrig) is lost. He cannot sing at his synagogue, as his voice (in that regard) is something he cannot find. He can barely take care of himself, much less their two sons. His main concern is seeing her body returned to the Earth in a timely manner, to ease her soul’s suffering in accordance with Orthodox beliefs. He seeks an understanding of something that lies beyond him, something he cannot see. In this respect, the parallels to religion are plain to spot. He decides he needs a scientist to help him understand decomposition, which leads him to local community college science teacher Albert (Matthew Broderick). Albert, while immediately offput by such strange questions, feels for Shmuel and despite being in over his head in terms of his knowledge base, decides to help.

Where the story goes from there takes some strange, hilarious and emotional turns, as the two try to find their way through the process together. Albert may not know Shmuel well and didn’t know his wife at all, but everyone knows grief. Its stages present themselves in different ways to different people, and Albert displays unyielding patience as the two fumble their way through the story. Röhrig is amazing as the mourning husband and father, giving a nuanced performance that allows for a lot of humor to creep into a serious situation and alleviate the sense of tension. His occasional struggles for eye contact mirror not only ours when faced with such overwhelming situations, but also his own inability to truly face what he is going through and let go of the deceased.

Shawn Snyder has done a wonderful job with an eccentric story. His script (along with Jason Begue) and direction are confident and trust the audience to buy into a weird but rewarding premise. He gets exactly what he needs out of his pair of leads, creating a wonderful sense of oddball chemistry. The cinematography and score are on point as well, working together to create something memorable.

Even in darkest times, light shines through.

GRADE: A-

To Dust is Written By Jason Begue and Shawn Snyder and Directed By Shawn Snyder


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