An aspiring filmmaker desperate for guidance finds a mentor amidst a very strange kidnapping.
Directed by: Moez Solis.
Starring: Brandi Nicole Payne, Liz Sklar, Mike Bash, Michael James Kelly, Santiago Rosas, Julie Lockfield, Corey Jackson, Mary Ann Rodgers, Geeta Rai, Ed Gonzalez Moreno.
Country: United States
Genre: Drama, comedy, thriller.
Running time: 74 minutes.
I’ve always said films are not supposed to make you need user manuals. A logic entry into traditional narrative must contain all necessary elements to make a story be cohesive, to make the characters be compelling, and to cause an impact on the viewer. This is a very general formula. Why change it?
There’s a very interesting concept behind the execution of The Mentor, a film that tells what could be a traditional story under today’s comedy thriller standards, but also a film that hints at a “meta” narrative about the rules of filmmaking and the heroes and villains behind the cameras. Unfortunately, the relevant theme goes missing inside a very complex story with underdeveloped characters. This concept is clearly exposed in a revealing third act that manages to answer some questions, and raise others.
The Mentor tells the story of Nilah, an aspiring screenwriter that’s seeking guidance and cannot find any. She sneaks into producers’ encounters, and tries to make contact, but there’s no success whatsoever. One day she bumps into a favorite of hers: a director with no time to spare. Claire ignores Nilah at first, but after Nilah saves her from being run over, the director decides to become a mentor of some sorts. This first encounter in a library is full of advices, bad impressions and severe honesty. That same day when leaving the place, a gang of masked people kidnaps them. But they’re not random victims. The people behind the masks have a very particular goal.
It’s not hard to identify the direction of the movie once characters start to reveal themselves. The Mentor is a movie about movie making and the destructive process it represents for some. The plot barely survives its repetitive tone and its existential trait. The characters go from being tense members of a survival game, to being connoisseurs of Herzog’s extreme methods and the ambiguity of John Ford’s supposed dependence of others. Mixing this part of the plot with senseless actions by some characters, is non-responsive to the director’s intention of engaging the viewer. Sure, it happens at some point even if it’s too late. This moment of certainty is driven by a powerful statement by the mentored, who becomes the central piece of a game that’s far too dangerous to be acceptable in the annals of traditional method. The rules of morale are darkened by the artist that is willing to transcend into harm and deceit, just for the sake of emotional anarchy. Is this accomplished in The Mentor? No, but the intention is there. General love for movies, and what’s behind the process of their creation, makes this movie a great try at explaining the complex process of artistic liberty. It’s not an easy thing.
If one were to forgive every initial misstep in The Mentor, and try to evaluate the movie’s foray into a very different style of character development, I think the result would be absolutely better. After all, a subjective point of view can be a critic’s greatest tool, but one never wants a movie to fail. We want to see achievements. With The Mentor, you can find something valuable, but you must endlessly dig into a very confusing web of events. Once you find it, it’s not an ordinary statement. It’s a very important message from a filmmaker trying to tell a story about the very toxic and dangerous environment he works in.
Star rating: **