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Deep in the Heart of It All

45365 (2009)

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

There is something special about small-town America. If you’ve lived in a place your whole life, you can really get under the skin. You know where to go, what to do, and whom to do it with. You know who the characters are and what their stories are; and you can usually figure out what’s the most succinct way of demonstrating the character of the place to a visitor.

Something along the lines must have been in the minds of the Ross brothers — Bill IV and Turner — when they began filming “45365,” the zip code of Sidney, Ohio and the hometown they decided to film for about six months in 2007. They went on ride-alongs with the local cops, followed a local judicial candidate on his campaign trail and sat in with the D.J.s at the radio stations while they took requests. They filmed kids playing baseball; girls arguing with their boyfriends on the phone; men taking their sons to the barbershop; and the ex-wives of a man shaking their heads together over his current situation.

But all of these situations are filmed as if we already know the story of who these people are. We don’t even learn anyone’s names. For example, the girl who is first shown exercising a horse and whose last image is in the crowd of a rock-‘n’-roll show is named Lindsey or maybe Cortney. Did the filmmakers know her so well that they didn’t feel she needed an introduction? And why did they choose the people they decided to film? Was it because they were friends, or simply that they allowed access? How was the film put together? There is so much footage of the radio station and its employees out and about, that one of them must have worked there. There are no intertitles, no names, no direction and no context.

There’s also no stillness whatsoever in the film. Hand-held cameras were used so there is constant movement, such as in the fairground rides. In the very occasional place-holding shots, there are either moving trains or cars so that there’s always a sense of rush, hurry and no chance to rest or breathe in the information given. It’s exhausting.

James Marsh’s “Wisconsin Death Trip” took the famous book of the same name and expanded it into an exploration of how its small town’s past impacted upon its current citizens. It told an incomplete, fragmented story but managed to delve into the lives of the people there in a way which “45365” does not. This movie skates over the surface of the lives it witnessed without rhyme or reason. Without any depth, it becomes a frustrating exercise for those of us who don’t live there.

Many of the scenes shot in the radio station have the live stream captured in the background, which means that due to music clearance rights it’s doubtful the film will gain mainstream release. The Ross brothers have shown they can film; now they just need a real story to tell.


Opens on June 17 in Manhattan.

Directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross; directors of photography, Bill Ross and Turner Ross; edited by Bill Ross; released by Seventh Art Releasing. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. This film is not rated.


I was also directed to this review via Roger Ebert's comment. I grew up about 30 minutes away from Sidney and now live in California as a filmmaker myself. With a review like this I am glad there is a Roger Ebert to give praise where praise is due. Sarah Manvel has much to learn about film.

I think this review is right on. It's like that other movie about some guy's life, then we learn it has something to do with a sled he called Rosebud. I mean really, what does a sled have to do with this newspaper guy's life? Nothing. There was no depth to that film at all; no voiceover at the beginning explaining what this sled was about and where he bought it. And the cinematography was terrible. First of all, didn't color exist in the past? Why did they have to get all artsy and make it black and white? Then there are shots from weird angles. Outrageous! I've never sat on the floor and looked up at people, so why did this "director" choose to shoot it that way?

Trust me, save your money and don't rent Citizen whatever it's called. Watch something with depth instead, like that one with Sandra Bullock where we get to cry with pride. Now that's how you convey emotion! Make people cry. This Kane guy didn't make me cry at all, I just wanted to go sledding.

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