Come Morning has been compared to A Simple Plan, which was a movie I enjoyed a great deal. Simple Plan‘s characters were engaging, smart, and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of each other. Both movies are about the lengths to which people will go to keep a secret and conceal evidence. However, where A Simple Plan kept me on the edge of my seat and kept the stakes rising throughout, Come Morning hints at more backstory than it actually tells and is fraught with a slow, dull plot and a bunch of lukewarm character archetypes. Nothing interesting happens in this movie, and the pacing and leaps in time just make it a chore to watch.
It starts out with Frank (Michael Ray Davis) and his grandson D (Thor Wahlestedt) preparing to go out hunting. A woman I have to assume is Frank’s wife Morigan (Elise Rovinsky) — I say assume because she plays the “nagging wife” part spot on, but age-wise, she looks like she could be his daughter or his wife — starts laying into Frank about how they shouldn’t go out on this hunting trip, and that it’s going to go badly, and all this other foreboding ominousness, but no clear explanation is given as to why she thinks this. Do they have a history of having accidents on previous trips? Have they shot people by mistake? Do they stay gone too long and get frozen? We don’t know.
Frank and D set out anyway, grab a seat in their hunting roost, and wait for a deer to wander by. It’s around this time that D starts his rather grating “Are we there yet?” routine where he whines about everything. It’s cold. I’m hungry. My toes are numb. When’s the deer coming? Where are those crackers? I’m tired. He keeps this up for pretty much the entire movie, so brace yourselves, because according to the special features, he has roughly 84 pages of dialogue. On top of that, while others saw him as the pivotal role in a coming-of-age story, I saw him stay the same flat, emotionless cardboard cut-out he started as.
The “deer” shows up. D shoots it. They start walking over to examine their prey, but figure out they accidentally shot a man (turns out to be a neighbor, someone with whom Frank and his son have had land disputes in the past). It’s not dark out. If they were close enough for a relatively inexperienced 11-year-old shooter to hit the target with a killing shot, I would think they’d be able to tell it wasn’t a deer, but rather an actual person. If they were far enough away for the target to be unclear, a) why are they shooting at something they couldn’t identify, and b) what are the odds that D would hit the target accurately enough to kill it in one shot? This is further complicated later when D has to try to save Frank from a couple of backwater pricks and suddenly he can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
All right, so we have reasonably well acted Frank deciding that they have to just hide the body. Don’t consider any alternatives, just hide the body and don’t tell anyone. Well, except the woman at your house. Because surely she won’t tell anyone. What could possibly go wrong there? So they walk all the way back to the house to get a wheelbarrow, shovel, and to tell Morigan what’s going on, then trek back out to where the body lies, having done nothing to obscure its plainly visible form from any passersby, though we’ve already established that lots of people hunt in these woods, many of whom don’t belong there and have an axe to grind with the property owners.
As Frank and D are lugging a corpse through the woods, they drop him several times, throw him in a ditch to avoid being seen by a passing car, then park him off to the side when encountering local thugs who are, I don’t know, hunting a deer that’s too small? I’m not a hunter, so I don’t know what the deal was there. With all the potential for physical comedy on the part of the corpse, I was expecting some Weekend at Bernie’s style antics to pop up eventually. Anyway, the property dispute that was confusingly hinted at in a flashback — or a flash sideways since D was in it and was roughly the same age — between one of the idiots we see now and Frank’s son comes to a head, and the meatheads start waving knives and guns in Frank’s face.
After a short verbal sparring match (if you can call it that — it was the equivalent of “You’re dumb.” “No, YOU’RE dumb.”) Frank walks back into the woods. I assumed he had a plan. Evidently not. Meatheads follow him and keep taunting him, Frank calls their bluff, but steps backwards off a three-foot drop and somehow almost kills himself. Meatheads run off. D comes to find Frank and he’s suddenly got a memory problem about which things he told D literally just now. D describes Frank’s physical condition to the audience (since they didn’t bother to show anything that would have otherwise explained it) with astute precision as “all busted up.” Frank delivers the line containing the title of the movie, and now D is on his own to dispose of a body and avoid anyone else along the way. Also, it’s the middle of the night. I guess that’s when everyone is out and about in Arkansas.
D dumps the body, re-encounters the meatheaded idiots, they threaten him and question his sexual orientation, then neighbor Charlie (Richard Ledbetter) shows up and delivers flesh wounds to the morons from the open end of his rifle, sends D on his way, and waits for the cops to show up. At some point D planted a ring in Frank’s hand that presumably belonged to one of the idiots, but it’s confusing when the cop’s only response to seeing the ring is “I didn’t know he and Charlie were so close.” D returns home, finding and cutting loose a dessicated dead dog along the way, walks into the house, and the credits roll.
Others are praising this as high art and fine cinema, but I just don’t see it. I also didn’t care for Winter’s Bone, another southern off-the-beaten-path drama, so maybe there’s just something about this particular slice of American culture that doesn’t work for me. When the disc menu came up, I had to double-check that it was in fact a Blu-ray since the menus were straight out of the DVD realm — no popups, just static, chunky, roll-over full-screen lists of items. The differentiation between a highlighted and not highlighted option is simply the shading on the font, making screens with only two options difficult to tell which option is currently highlighted. Because of this, I inadvertently turned on the commentary track for the feature, and then realized there’s no option to turn it off — the options are literally only to “Play With Commentary” or “Return to Main Menu.” No on/off toggle; once it’s on, it’s on. I had to start the movie back up, open the system menu (not the disc menu), and choose a different audio track to turn it off. This is some amateur hour front-end production. The picture quality of the film itself isn’t spectacular; most of it takes place in the dark and there are zero special effects, so there’s nothing gained by viewing this in high definition.
Other features include a 25-minute Behind the Scenes (for an 80-minute movie), Deleted Scenes, First Look, and two trailers. One huge thing that’s missing: subtitles. This was especially bothersome because the audio range of the movie is either whisper quiet or so loud you’ll wake your neighbors when doors slam, guns shoot, or a car drives through the scene. Of course, this also means that the hearing impaired will have trouble watching the movie. Language options are similarly limited to English. Should I be forgiving of the film and its shortcomings because it was made for only around $50k, half of which came from Kickstarter? Nope, because Primer was breathless and exciting and smart, and that only cost $3000 to make.
I really enjoyed A Simple Plan, and I was pumped to watch Come Morning based on the comparison. Congrats, marketing; you got me. Instead of a taut thriller, I got a slow, boring, incomplete, confusing story about people who could be the descendants of the moonshiners from Deliverance, but without Ned Beatty squealing.