2015 FILM REVIEWS & AWARD WINNERS

learning pic reviewLEARNING TO RIDE
April 12, 2015 – 7pm @ The Tonawanda Castle

Learning To Ride (F, 91m)– by Director – Michael Hanley, Producers – Adam Setterfield and Michael Hanley (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

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Among other things, Learning To Ride is a fitting title since it represents Writer/Director Michael Hanley’s first venture into the world of feature films. Although not a perfect film, the good far outweighs the bad with the scale tipping massively to the good side. Choices, feelings, and people are the main force that push Learning To Ride along the treacherous tracks we call indie film. It’s also safe to write that this movie isn’t just about two people trying to make things work between them, as it says in the description. This is a film about life in general. How we live it, what we do with it and how we interact with the people that we love the most. This is a film about all of us played through the eyes of Abby and Ryan. A film about life.
The technical work behind Learning To Ride is a mixed bag. Camera wise, we have a mix containing everything from locked off shots to what appear to be hand held shots; or maybe the use of a Steadicam made to look a little rougher. Either way, sometimes the mix works and sometimes not so much. A film of this caliber would have benefited from the complete package in regards to cinematography. A more standard approach to almost every shot would have gave this film a perfect rating in my eyes. Some of the bouncing and moving shots almost always pulled me right out of the movie. This didn’t make the movie unwatchable in any way, just slightly reduced the overall world immersion factor in my case. With that said however, let me write that the audio was done pretty well. If I had to really nit-pick an issue with the sound it would be that sometimes it was hard to hear. On those occasions the problem wasn’t a bad recording issue. It really was simply that some lines were very quiet. Like I wrote above though, that was a very small thing and almost not worth writing at all. Almost. The actual editing of the film was done very well. Slick and polished. Since this is a feature length film I was very grateful that the editor knew what they were doing. Nothing says feature film more than a good edit. Nice work Luke Sargent!
What really stood out as exceptional were two things. The first being the writing. I’m not talking about the overall story that is Learning To Ride. Yes, the story line is a good one… It’s just not unique. What story really is unique now days though? What I’m talking about is the dialog writing. The hardest thing to get right when putting together a screenplay. As I finished watching Learning To Ride I realized that not once had I though how bad or cheesy a line was. The written dialog for the two main characters was spot on! Coming across as real and not scripted at any point I can remember. If nothing else, Michael Hanley has a gift for creating personalities, conversations and people. Amazing job Michael. Probably some of the best dialog writing I’ve seen in a long time.
The other aspect of the film that stands out is the acting itself. I write all the time how the talent does or doesn’t do a good job. As any indie film person will tell you… sometimes (most of the time) getting the right actors is harder than the production itself. In the case of Learning To Ride that doesn’t seem to have been an issue. Camille Stopps (Abby) and Aaron Chartrand (Ryan) do a spectacular job in their roles as the lead characters. At times perfect, or at times featuring the weird and awkward chemistry between the two, combined with their natural acting ability come together to form some very splendid performances. These characters… these people are instantly felt as real, living members of society simply struggling to find their way. I instantly recognized some of the situations, looks, gestures and tones these two used while playing their parts. It just came across as totally real and for that, as a viewer I am completely grateful.
Learning To Ride is a great film that will appeal to a much larger audience than it’s genre states it should. A well written and excellently acted piece of indie filmmaking. Watch for this one and treat yourself when you can. This is a good film! In closing I have to add one thing… my favorite line. ” You deleted me on Facebook.”
-JT

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