April 24, 2016
Charlotte-based writer, director, and actor Thomas Torrey is taking his latest work, Fare, to the Newport Beach Film Festival in California this upcoming week for its premiere on April 26th. While I won’t be attending, I was lucky enough to watch the film in advance of its debut. Posing as a thriller, Fare is a dark allegory exploring the forms love takes and the price of inaction.
Almost completely staged within the confines of a car across the span of one day, Eric (played by Torrey), is an on-call driver, in the vein of Uber or Lyft, who ferries passengers from destination to destination. Unkempt and exuding desperation, Eric tries to connect with his passengers and almost always fails. That is, until a very special passenger gets into his car, sending him on a journey of self-declaration that he never expected but gravely needed.
From a technical perspective, Fare is fascinating to watch. Torrey’s cinematography could be gimmicky if executed poorly, but he manages to avoid this by meticulously staging each shot. You can sense the rhythm and purpose behind each shot with every cut. Through mid-range shots and a variety of close-ups, Torrey manages to maintain a sense of motion and intensity, ensuring that the audience doesn’t miss a moment. He also makes sure to fill the car with characters that seem real, even as they fit a generic type: the international businessman, the party girl, the boys on the hunt, that one weird passenger that insists on sitting up front, the traveling playboy. Each character is treated cinematically as valuable and each provides some view into the concept of love. Whereas, Eric, filled with self-loathing, must drudge his way through traffic as he ferries them on to their destination.
This visual, of Eric as a ferryman, I don’t think is a coincidence. He admits that driving is a way to pass the time and make money, which means he’s always moving, but never for himself. As we see, when Eric is alone, his rage and loneliness seems ready to explode, yet something keeps him from taking action. Torrey seems to imply that inaction, while a choice for living, doesn’t constitute a reason for loving, and this concept becomes a driving force in this film for Eric after a conversation with a passenger. Quoting from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, his passenger tells him that love is about working in cooperation or in competition with another. As Fare reaches its ultimately tense conclusion, this very concept is put to the test.
I enjoy watching a film that I think I have pegged only to be completely, utterly, wrong. There’s a delightful sense of surprise when you feel out-smarted. With Fare, Torrey has cleverly put together what could have been a standard thriller whose automotive set piece was its only attempt at something new. Instead, Torrey begins with the expected and takes us to a darker, deeper place that requires a bit more contemplative thought to parse out the story. Torrey, Katherine Drew, J.R. Adduci, and Pat Dortch for pull off what must have been an exhaustive dramatic exercise. As interesting as the story ultimately becomes, it would be nothing without their phenomenal performances.
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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