A Place in the Field
Directorial debut shows promise, but could've benefited from further development.
Film Yap is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I enjoyed director Nikki Mejia’s feature debut “A Place in the Field” (in select theaters Friday, Nov. 10 and available on VOD beginning Tuesday, Nov. 28) well enough. It’s a simple story told simply, but it’s also a story well worth telling.
Giovanni Scuderi (Don DiPetta, “Green Book”) is a veteran having trouble adjusting to civilian life and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Gio’s working as a carpenter in rural Texas and seeing a comely, kindly doctor named Jessica Garza (Mishel Prada). She wants to take their relationship to the next level by having Gio move in with her in El Paso. He’s reticent to do so.
Gio receives a package one fateful day. It’s the ashes of a fallen comrade who died by his own hand. Gio had spoken to the man about taking a road trip when they returned to the real world culminating with a stop in his compadre’s California hometown for the Fourth of July. He decides to make the voyage in his fallen friend’s honor.
Accompanying Gio on his journey is another squadmate Herbert Davis (Khorri Ellis). When their vehicle breaks down they hitch a ride from the helpful, Winnebago-driving Ashlee (Ashlee Brian), who invites them to hang with his homies. It’s here that Gio and Herbert dabble with psychedelics and equine-assisted therapy, which opens their hearts and minds … ultimately broadening their horizons.
“A Place in the Field” is a good but not great feature directorial debut for recent American Film Institute graduate Mejia. The script by DiPetta, Ellis, active Army reservist Bluesmon Del Vecchio and Xochitl Portillo is moving, but arguably not moving enough. I applaud the filmmakers for sidestepping the histrionics that often pepper stories such as these – however, some theatricality might’ve deepened the project’s emotional impact.
I was surprised to discover DiPetta is a touring comedian as his Gio is very monotone and stoic. Then again, it’s called acting, folks. I did enjoy Ellis’ performance as Herbert. His character is far funnier and more playful than DiPetta’s – he’s the yang to Gio’s yin if you will.
I would say the strongest aspect of “A Place in the Field” is its cinematography. Kadri Koop’s photography often recalls Emmanuel Lubezki’s work in the films of Terrence Malick. She does a spectacular job chronicling the splendor of the American Southwest.
I often complain of movies being too long, but “A Place in the Field” is one of those rare instances where I feel the film would’ve benefited greatly by employing a greater length. At just a hair over 80 minutes, the picture is certainly stripped-down … perhaps too much? I would’ve liked to have seen more development between Gio and Jess as well as Gio and Herbert. Hell, I’m sure there was even some time for histrionics.