Released Apr. 4, 2017
Unrated (equivalent to R rating for violence, horror imagery, and language) – 1hr 29min
Directed by Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton
Starring Annette O’Toole, Clark Freeman, John Glover
Compulsive phobic Miles Grissom (Freeman) places an ad in the newspaper offering $30,000 to anyone who can offer him compelling evidence of an afterlife to assuage his crippling fear of death. It attracts a lot of attention, especially from his own mother (O’Toole), who moves back in with him perceiving him to be in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Together, they begin to sift through the numerous proposals he’s received, an endeavor that may lead to the ruin of them both.
We Go On is a pretty low-key indie drama until it substantially turns the volume up on the supernatural elements. It keeps its ambitions in check with its low budget, so the emphasis here is on storytelling and character development and less on visually striking horror elements.
I’m actually quite the fan of this writing/directorial duo’s previous film, 2011’s Yellowbrickroad, which is not a well-liked movie that I personally consider to be underrated and misunderstood. I believe the key problem that undermined that effort was its wildly awful CGI, particularly in its final scene, that left a lasting negative impression on audiences. Yet the story was fantastic and the performances clicked. It took them six years to release another feature and here, they appear to have addressed the problems with their overreaching debut and dialed in a script that better reflects their limited resources.
That script isn’t very interesting. The premise is admittedly compelling, with this basket case of a man getting exactly what he asked for, but instead of solace, it makes his life exponentially worse. The fable of ‘be careful what you wish for’ is often rewarding territory for horror, but here, it forces We Go On to prove itself in the ‘I see dead people’ family of scary movies, and it doesn’t have much of anything new to say once we get to that point. It’s also somewhat clunky in moving toward that point.
In the spirit of the protagonist’s many psychological maladies, I’ll say that this movie suffers Indie Film Wonkiness Disorder. With independent productions, there’s often nobody around to reliably provide a professional level of polish to the proceedings. Every now and again, a diamond in the rough is formed, where this lack of oversight results in a truly innovative movie that would have been otherwise impossible with industry-minded people at the helm. However, most indie films aren’t those – they’re scrappy best-possible attempts at homegrown material that can often suffer from weird plot structures, meandering stories, off-kilter acting, try-hard dialogue, and ill-advised set pieces that those same industry-minded people would have had ironed out of the screenplay before production even began. Sometimes, they make train wrecks of things and often stifle all semblance of creativity, but they typically know a good potential movie on paper when they see one and can smooth out many of the rough edges, provided they don’t go overboard.
We Go On specifically suffers from some truly odd plot structure, especially in the first half. Miles’ personal crusade for evidence of an afterlife sends him and his mom on a number of false starts that don’t go anywhere, leaving us to wonder why we had to see any of that in the first place. Also, the dynamic between Miles and his mother never really feels authentic – they often seem more like odd couple roommates than aging parent and adult child. Try-hard dialogue is partly to blame – sometimes it clicks, but sometimes it doesn’t – and it makes their interactions emotionally jumbled, throwing off that dynamic. Now, I really think that Annette O’Toole nails her role – she’s likable, charismatic, and complicated. She also has a tendency to steal every scene from the less capable Clark Freeman. He does well enough when he’s alone and in freak-out mode or when playing off the antagonist later in the film, but he just can’t keep up with O’Toole, and the fact that it’s so obvious likewise reduces the value of what is the most crucial pairing of characters in the whole film.
So, Indie Film Wonkiness Disorder is the result of filmmakers being allowed to indulge virtually every idea they have without anyone around to reel them in. We Go On has a notable case of it, but it’s hardly an awful movie. Things do pick up in the second half and, while it doesn’t re-invent the wheel at any point, it presents an interesting conflict with an uncomfortable moral dilemma of a solution that plays out in an unorthodox way. That’s where its indie-ness gets to shine some, but don’t look its way for excitement or genuine scares. There’s not much to be found there (one quick scene though did manage to give me actual chills, so that was neat). Hopefully, Holland and Mitton work more frequently from here out, because I think they got a great one in them somewhere. It just wasn’t this one.
We Go On gets a