A woman stands in profile in a hallway
Lyndsey Marshal as NICKY in RESTLESS

RESTLESS, directed and written by Jed Hart

Jed Hart's feature length directorial debut finds the nightmare in the everyday with the tale of Nicky, a healthcare worker driven to a murderous rage by her neighbors and their parties that don't go gentle into that good night.

Nicky (Lyndsey Marshal) lives in an ordinary looking duplex just outside London. She's recently lost her parents and spends most of her time at home. After her workday as senior care specialist ends, she relishes her quiet time at home baking, doing yoga, and listening to classical music with her cat companion. But when new neighbor Deano (Aston McAuley) moves in, her peaceful haven turns into a den of terror. Late into the hours of the night, Deano and pals party it up, with the house music dialed up to eleven.

Nicky does the right thing and tries to talk to her new neighbor but quickly understands that Deano has no intention of altering his behavior to accommodate her requests. A war of attrition ensues. Unable to get sleep, Nicky's sanity begins to fray, forcing her to increasingly erratic behavior.

A woman stands in front of her stairwell
Lyndsey Marshal as NICKY in RESTLESS
Jed Hart allows the scenario to play out to utter perfection. The production team portrays Nicky's spiral into situational insanity through the music, camera angles, and color. When Nicky enjoys quiet reprieve at home, the music of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky lilts through her speakers. Meanwhile the house and trap music emanating from the speakers next door interrupts the repose. 

As Deano's actions begin to intensify and break Nicky's spirit, the music inside of the house changes, as well. At first, the genres of music weave together, forming a strange sample mix of operatic melodies and propulsive beats. But eventually, the clash of sound titans leaves only one winner – the music of Deano fully taking over, wreaking a path of destruction on Nicky's mind. The colors change from warm, cozy lighting to the neon strobe lights of a night club. With Deano's music and actions climaxing to a psychological form of breaking and entering, Nicky has no choice but to return the favor.

Nicky's story will ring familiar to almost every viewer. Who hasn't had their own personal "neighbor from hell" story? Thankfully, the nightmare leads to an ultimately satisfying conclusion that allows viewers to experience justice vicariously through Nicky.

Screening in its World Premiere during Tribeca Film Festival 2024 in the Viewpoints section. See film detail page for screening options.

Release info: Unknown at this time. 

Final score: 4 out of 5

A flyer on a signpost asking for more information about missing women

MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD, directed by Sabrina Van Tassel

"I wish I knew every story of where our women are, where they've been taken and left for dead or buried, but the woods are really dense." - Deborah Parker, activist and Indigenous leader.

MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD continues the conversation about missing and murdered Indigenous Women by focusing on the story of one such woman named Mary Ellen Johnson-Davis. Sadly, these stories all feel so similar they tend to blend together, with only the places and names changing. These stories need to continue to be told until public outrage leads to action, leaving filmmakers with no resort but to make films about the topic as compelling as possible. Documentaries and docu-series like FINDING DAWN (2006), HIGHWAY OF TEARS (2015), and MURDER IN BIG HORN (2023) follow the factual cases, while feature films and TV series like WIND RIVER (2017), CATCH THE FAIR ONE (2021), ALASKA DAILY (2022), and KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (2023), captivate audiences with fictional renderings of an all-too-real reality. Every year, thousands of Indigenous women go missing. Into this reality, MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD documents a story that sounds eerily similar to these predecessors.

On November 25, 2020, the day before Thanksgiving, Johnson-Davis went missing from the Tulalip Tribal Indian Reservation, home to six different tribes. Director Sabrina Van Tassel (THE STATE OF TEXAS VS. MELISSA) introduces us to her story through the voices of her sister's, loved ones, and community members. If you have seen any of the films mentioned above, the tale will sound familiar. She goes missing, the absence is reported to the authorities, and excuses are made as to why nothing is done. Crimes that happen on reservations fall outside the jurisdiction of local authorities, leaving the FBI as the only power who can bring criminal justice. Too often, cases get dropped because of lack of a body or any evidence that proves the person is missing, rather than just an intentional runaway.

After learning about Mary Ellen, the story shifts to other cases in different parts of the state of Washington. While the documentary storytelling only grows more compelling, the connection to Mary Ellen's story becomes unclear. Van Tassel uses the effective technique of conducting interviews about tragedy at the locations they occurred. These site visits become a way to mark a place as sacred ground – a final resting place for someone's spirit.

Three women in profile listen to someone talk
Mary Ellen's family members trace clues to a person of interest
Activist and founder of Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women, People & Families (MMIWPF), Roxanne White, and her cousin, Cissy Reyes, visit a site where Rosenda Strong's body was found in a freezer. They walk with fistfuls of tobacco, finding a quiet spot where they can pray and put their sister's spirit to rest. Later, an activist named Deborah Parker drives to a place where her aunt was once sexually assaulted by four men: "Although she lived to see another day, she never lived. They took her life here." She talks about the tragedy with her aunt, and we see them holding hands. As someone who has gone on pilgrimages, there is power in sharing a story at the site of its birth, reclaiming a piece of ground as sacred.

From here the story seemingly meanders again to the horrible story of Indigenous children being stolen and abused in boarding schools. This switch had me scratching my head as to what this had to do with our established subject of Mary Ellen. Eventually, Van Tassel draws the line between the history of abuse within boarding schools and how this has normalized Indigenous people going missing. All along, details of Mary Ellen's story line up with that history, but it's not until the concluding chapter that the through line becomes clear.

MISSING FROM FIRE TRAIL ROAD offers an uneven viewing experience, with the story switching topics and tones rather abruptly. At the beginning, the documentary feels like a standard documentary, with lots of interviews done in a very no-nonsense manner. But as the story leaves Tulalip and travels outside that reservation's boundaries, the story leaves more space in the tale and turns up the creepy vibes with the visits, music, and tone. The story then takes on the appeal of a thriller. By the end, all the connections are drawn, and my confusion is lifted. However, nothing can outweigh the mixture of sadness and anger I feel at this documentary. A further edit may have been wise to help clarify where the story was going, but the message rings clear.

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Screening in its World Premiere during Tribeca Film Festival 2024 in the Spotlight Documentary section. See film detail page for screening options.

Release info: Nothing at this time.

Final score: 3 out of 5