On the run after robbing a bank, Trip holds up in a seedy looking motel room with his young female hostage Sara. His plan is simple: handcuff Sara to the bed, spend the night there, and then catch a plane in the morning. Things take a turn for the worse though when Dennis, an escaped convict, shows up in their hotel room. From then on, their lives head down a path of bloody insanity with each one playing against the other so they can try to escape with their lives.
After spending a couple of years doing the festival circuit and no distribution, Andrew Moorman's "Sympathy" finally found a home with Breaking Glass Pictures' horror label Vicious Circle Films. For which I am glad because I think "Sympathy" would have gotten by me if it wasn't for Breaking Glass sending me the screener, which really would have been a shame because this movie is simply amazing.
"Sympathy" takes place in a single hotel room and only has three on screen characters and manages to be one of the most engaging modern independent movies both from a story and a character standpoint. The story is about a man who's on the run after robbing a bank and takes a young woman hostage and they hold up in a hotel room for the night. Eventually an escaped convict joins their little party and from then on becomes the ultimate cat-and-mouse game.
The story is interesting because it is multi-layered and when you are watching it you know that there is more to it than what you are lead to believe in the beginning and that there is more to each character's story as well. But "Sympathy" plays with the audience and takes its time to slowly peel back the layers. To reveal only a little bit of information at a time on who these people are and how they've come to be in the situation that they are in.
What really helps to sell the story though are the characters and the actors who portray them. While all three actors are excellent in their parts, Marina Shtelen who plays Sara really steals the show. She's able to convey this naive girl who is seemingly innocent but is not victim, (and won't allow herself to be one) intelligent, and is doing what she can to survive. What makes her character interesting though is from the start you can tell that there is more to Sara than what she lets on. While Dennis and Trip fight it out to be the man in charge, you can see Sara is the one who's pulling the strings in this scenario. Not to sell Steven Pritchard (Trip) and Aaron Boucher (Dennis) short, as both of them are quite good in their rolls too.
"Sympathy" has this great tense atmosphere to it; from the very start of the movie you are just waiting for the situation to boil over because the tension builds and builds through out the movie. It also has this unbelievable claustrophobic feel to it because it takes place in a single-indoor location and because you’re almost trapped with these characters. You don't know who they really are so there for you don't know how you should feel for them. Essentially you are stuck with three unlikable characters because you know there is more going on that what is being told. It's not that you don't like them because of who they are; you're just unsure as to what they've done or what they're capable of so you're left to have to wait until the story unravels until the very end.
Unfortunately, because of the movie's isolated location, limited characters, and that it takes its time and allows the different parts of the story to play themselves out. I can't help but feel this is a movie that isn't going to be well received by the general public. For those who are able to enjoy a movie that is able to do so much with a less-is-more style will be greatly rewarded with "Sympathy". While it may have spent a couple years doing the festivals, it is a movie that deserves and has earned its wide release in the DVD market.