‘R‘ is an impressive micro-budget indie feature film of 20-year-old filmmaker Holden Pollak. He writes and directs this piece that attempts to serve as an introspection into the history of cinema.
Set in Los Angeles in 1965, ‘R‘ follows the journey of Gordon Flemyng (played by Brad Pollak), a B-list director. He receives a groundbreaking screenplay from his friend Robert Sabaroff (played by Mark Baker) and together they aim to create an extraordinary film, starring NFL player-turned-actor Jim Brown (played by J’amore Ward). The duo’s dreams seem within reach, but as Gordon strives for recognition, he faces a dilemma: fame or artistic integrity. When the film pushes the boundaries of traditional ratings, Gordon confronts unforeseen challenges, leading to the first-ever R-rating for their movie “The Split” (1968).
Both Brad Pollak and Mark Baker deliver an okay performance in their roles as leads in the film. However, their inexperience often slips through the cracks courtesy of the lengthy dialogue that they have to deliver. The film also features an appearance from seasoned Hollywood actor Eric Roberts. Even with his limited number of scenes, he adds some significant weight to the overall quality of acting in this film.
Interestingly, Pollak‘s film doesn’t look or feel like a period piece. Without the knowledge of what it is about, you can’t tell from how it looks that is a story set in the 60s. Neither the costuming nor key props reflect that era. As a matter of fact, throughout the entire film, there are only a few vehicles that seem to be from that time. Pollak keeps it basic even with the colour grading of the film depicting how modest of a budget he had at his disposal for the making of this film.
The film revolves around the true-life story of Gordon Flemyng and Robert Sabaroff who embark on the ambitious journey of creating ‘The Split“. So you would expect it to have the look and feel reminiscent of that time. Pollak creatively makes the film to be about the friendship between the two creators and how it is challenged during the making of their film.
The story feels intimate, highlighting their struggles and motivations as well as their journeys to self-discovery. You do not get to see much about the actual making of “The Split”. However, the characters come to life through their dynamics and conversations, making their arcs genuine, compelling and relatable.
Pollak also manages to lighten things with a bit of humour in the dialogue. But it is moderate enough so as not to water down the seriousness of the film’s core themes of comradeship and the challenges of creativity and artistry.
Surprisingly, the film doesn’t divulge much about how and why “The Split” became an R-rated film. It is not exactly clear what the details on that matter are even though it is a central part of the film’s plot.
In conclusion, ‘R’ is a testament to the power of introspection in filmmaking. Holden Pollak’s directorial debut showcases his narrative prowess and an astute understanding of art’s essence. With a poignant screenplay and genuine character exploration, the film weaves together a tapestry of human connection, artistic pursuit, and self-realization.
While several technical limitations might occasionally peek through, they are overshadowed by the sincerity that ‘R’ brings to the table in tackling this story.
I will score this film a 6/10 rating.
As a young filmmaker, Pollak‘s future seems promising if he continues to infuse his work with the same ideology that makes ‘R’ an earnest and engaging piece of cinema.