In the Radiant City (2017) Review
Bittersweet homecoming finds a man haunted by the actions of his past.
In the Radiant City is a 2017 drama about a man who testified against his brother and returns to his rural Kentucky hometown twenty years later to face his fractured family.
There are many great and terrible tragedies that can ruin a family, some that seep into the marrow and hold fast for generations, even lifetimes. With In The Radiant City, there seems no hope for healing for one that is bound to a choice made twenty years earlier, causing a rift that widens as time drags on. It’s an uncompromising film that is earthy and grounded by its authenticity, challenging the truths or not of long remembered memories.
Andrew Yurley (Michael Abbott Jr.) arrives in his hometown in the dead of night having been gone twenty years. He takes a room in a hotel and is recognized by the owner, the reason for his return one most in town expect. His sister Laura (Marin Ireland) is not eager to see him, even sickened by her first sight of him in the grocery store where she works as a clerk, though he doesn’t see her. He’s come because of his brother, who is incarcerated for murder based on Andrew’s testimony two decades before and with his parole hearing at hand, he could sway the judge. But will he go through with it and more importantly, can he mend a family torn apart by the nightmares of their past.
Directed by Rachel Lambert, In The Radiant City is a film of many questions, designed to keep the viewer asking throughout. What really happened between Andrew and his brother? Why does Laura despise him so? Is it possible two stories could be true? The answers to these are not always easy and some come with terrible consequences. Lambert, who co-wrote the screenplay, puts all her emphasis on the characters, developing them slowly, sometimes with no exposition, just a series of visuals that draw us closer to them, or more precisely invest into them. With both Laura and Andrew’s stories so deliberately and carefully played out, we are sometimes at a loss for who we should side with, the point exactly Lambert is making. Small dreamy flashbacks from each illustrate just how valuable their memories are and we learn to stack them against each other in a small battle for who is the more righteous.
What we take away is how, while one brother has been in jail for twenty years, his sister and brother have been imprisoned by it as well, Andrew roaming the seas as far from it all as possible, tormented by his past while Laura stays in the home, struggling to take care off their ailing mother (Celia Weston) and her angry, rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter Beth (Madisen Beaty). And it’s Beth who brings them all together in sorts, having met Andrew outside a store looking to buy beer, the two not knowing who the other is. It’s a scene that leads to another in his motel room where Lambert deftly avoid the clichés of the genre and allows Andrew to be everything you expect and everything you don’t.
In The Radiant City is produced by Jeff Nichols and there is much about Lambert’s film that echoes his style. This is a quiet film filled with hidden violence and frightful personal pain. There is great ambiguity to these characters and their fates that feels well-earned, we voyuers in their shattered lives, perhaps their tragedy so great we shouldn’t see all they have buried within and the choices going forward they will make. And yet, there is a desperate hope about it all that through great suffering there is still a chance that a family can heal.
In the Radiant City (2017) Review
Movie description: In the Radiant City is a 2017 drama about a man who testified against his brother and returns to his rural Kentucky hometown twenty years later to face his fractured family.
Director(s): Rachel Lambert
Actor(s): Michael Abbott Jr., Marin Ireland, Madisen Beaty