A Patient Man

 

            Tom (Jonathan Mangum) seems to live in a “Groundhog Day” kind of world.  Every day is the same.  His alarm goes off precisely at 7 a.m.  He rides his bicycle to the train station, takes the train downtown, then rides his bicycle the rest of the way to work.  His home is sparsely furnished, he doesn't seem to socialize, and he appears to have no hobbies.  We learn from his co-workers that he's recently been in a car accident.  They're all saying how glad they are to have him back, but their reassurances feel awkward.  Tom doesn't seem to register emotion with anyone.

            So we're glad to see him talking to a therapist (Kelsey Scott), except that he's not very forthcoming with her, either.  He says everything is fine, and work is the same as it was.  Something about logistics for trucking.  He sits in his office on his laptop, but he doesn't seem to be interacting with clients, or with the other people at work. 

            That's why we're a little bit relieved to see him striking up a conversation with another man on the train.  We find out his name is Aaron (Tate Ellington), and that he's only recently been taking the train, because they took his license away from him.  (He doesn't say why, but we suspect DUI.)  But Aaron is a personable guy, a corporate lawyer, and at least Tom seems to be interacting with someone.  Well, there is a guy at work who's a member of a Wednesday night bike riding club, and he's invited Tom to come along.  We get the feeling Tom's not all that enthused about it, but tries it anyway.  We know he doesn't especially like that particular guy at work.  But none of that seems to bother him.

            In fact, nothing seems to bother him, which bothers us, after we've learned that in that automobile accident he lost his wife.  We've wondered about his lack of interaction with the opposite gender.  There seems to be one female friend, also a friend of his wife's, but they mostly just talk on the phone.  She's encouraging him to sue the guy who caused the car accident, but he says, simply, “No.”

            All this time, Director and writer Kevin Ward wraps us up in a sense of foreboding, like something momentous is going to happen, we just don't know when.  His choice of music suggests something unexpected, but the screenplay itself comes across as routine and normal.  Yes, there's a lack of secondary characters, but this keeps us laser-focused on Tom, who doesn't appear to be angry or sad, but we see him drinking shots by himself on his living room couch, and apparently keeping tabs on how many he's consuming every day.  As if he's on some sort of internal countdown.

            It's a quiet, melancholy kind of movie, where you almost expect a little twist at the end.  It's small-scoped and introspective.  Its only indulgence is flashback.  But it will reward patient viewers with a “what just happened?” kind of conclusion.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association