In the Radiant City
Rachel Lambert's debut about a dysfunctional family in the Deep South is flawed but promising
Produced by Jeff Nichols, this flawed but promising feature length debut by Rachel Lambert has much in common with his tales of familial strife in the Deep South, but too frequently lapses into oblique moodiness at the expense of plot and character.
The film sees Andrew – a solid lead performance by Michael Abbott Jr – returning ghostlike to his small hometown in Kentucky for the first time in years after his testimony saw his brother, Michael, sent to jail for murder – a return that is not much welcomed by his sister, Laura, who now cares for their ailing mother and considers him the source of their misfortune.
Lambert has stated that she was inspired by true accounts of those who have turned in family members for violent crimes, but rather than explicitly address the event that the entire film revolves around, Lambert mingles impressionistic flashbacks of the siblings in their youth with the nightmarish image of a burning house. While this lack of narrative clarity initially draws the viewer, by the end it leaves the film feeling insubstantial.