The American small town is one of the oldest and most reliable muses in film, earning depictions as everything from a Capraesque wonderland of idealism to a Lynchian nightmare of tragic exploits. Tim Daly and Clark Mathis give the muse fresh appeal by merging extremes to somber effect in their assured directing debut. Molly (Vinessa Shaw) is an amateur photographer who swears off car travel after her fiancé Joel is killed by an elderly driver while jogging. As she walks everywhere in her Vermont town, often down the middle of the road, she sees the townspeople's sickeningly methodic lives as never before. Privately, she listens to Joel's last phone messages every night and constantly feels his presence. In public, Molly assumes an expressionless façade that hides the anguish from her smothering mother, too-young sister, and passive-aggressive boss, never letting on that losing Joel meant losing touch with the temporal world. The tempest brewing in her soul finds release through a volatile young man (Tim Blake Nelson) and his uncle (Tim Daly), the town troublemakers whose white trash existence couldn't be further from Molly's austere upbringing, but to whose aura of danger Molly is drawn as a respite from her own quiet desperation. Shaw's achingly ambivalent performance anchors this quiet work while Nelson's gleeful recklessness provides a subtle touch of levity. Daly adds an air of foreboding in front of the camera. Behind it, he and Mathis frame the Vermont countryside as a picture postcard, but it's an image whose tranquility appears profoundly misleading upon closer inspection.
Tim Daly recently completed filming director Bille August's Return to Sender (2005). His other acting film credits include Against the Ropes (2004), Basic (2003), The Object of My Affection (1998), Denise Calls Up (1995), and Barry Levinson's Diner (1982). Through his production company, Red House Entertainment, Daly produced and starred in Seven Girlfriends (1999), Execution of Justice (1999), and Edge of America (2003), which opened the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and screens here at Tribeca. His television credits include the series Wings (1990-1997), The Fugitive (2000), and HBO's From the Earth to the Moon (1998). Daly has received Theatre World, Drama Logue, and GLAAD awards, and, in 2001, was nominated for TV Guide and SAG Best Actor awards for The Fugitive. Clark Mathis has been a professional cinematographer for 14 years. In 2003, he became one of the youngest cinematographers ever nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers Award for his work on Birds of Prey (2002). His ability to convey a story visually and emotionally is grounded in his experience working as an editor for ABC News while still in high school. Mathis has photographed both studio and independent features. He recently completed Edge of America (2003), The Perfect Score (2004), and is currently shooting director Don Roos' Happy Endings (2004).