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Sunday, April 20, 2014

GABRIEL: Tribeca Film Festival Review 2014

Rory Culkin in Gabriel: Courtesy Gabriel
2014, 88 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Lou Howe's Gabriel is a moving film that's so well-acted it was hard to believe I was watching actors.  The film centers around Gabriel (he prefers to be called Gabe), a mentally ill young man who wants to propose to his former girlfriend because he believes that that will create stability in his life.  Rory Culkin is mesmerizing as Gabe and the supporting cast is universally excellent, but Deirdre O'Connell stands out at Gabriel's mom, Meredith.

Howe's screenplay is honest, emotional, and not sentimental, though very moving.  Every tear is earned.  Howe doesn't define Gabe by his illness.  Through good and bad, Howe makes sure that we understand why Gabe is acting the way he is.  Because of Gabe's illness, his behavior is unpredictable, and this unpredictability drives each scene.

While Gabriel is very much a character study of its eponymous character, it is also an exploration of how mental illness can affect an entire family.  Howe made every character interesting and lovingly developed each and every one of them.

As mentioned, the entire cast is fantastic, but Culkin and O'Connell stand out.  Culkin's portrayal of Gabe is sensitive, human, and heartbreaking.  Culkin's work with Gabe is unique because of the many habits and idiosyncrasies that he created. While many of Gabe's actions are questionable at best, I was invested in him and cared about him throughout because of Culkin's superb work.  He earned my sympathy.

Deirdre O'Connell's portrayal of Gabe's mother, Meredith, is beautiful.  A character like Meredith would usually be underdeveloped, but Howe and O'Connell do everything they can to make her as real as possible.  By watching O'Connell, we learn volumes about Meredith.  Meredith hasn't had the easiest life, yet she is a kind, loving mother with a huge heart.  In Meredith, I saw so much of my mother and I expect many others to see their mothers in her too.

Overall, Gabriel is a multi-layered film with a stand-out lead performance, a smart screenplay, and a director who likely has a great career ahead.  This is a stand-out film in this year's World Narrative Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival and should play well with most everyone who sees it.


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