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Bay Area filmmaker Daniel Kremer is prodigious, to put it mildly. With 18 directing credits in just over 10 years, Kremer has dipped a toe in shorts, documentaries as well as narrative features. Whereas other indie filmmakers are also able to deliver entertaining films on a yearly basis, Kremer does all of this while living in one of the most expensive areas in America. And although I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see any of his other films, his noir-ish, epic, ambling Overwhelm the Sky (2018) clocks in at nearly 3 heady hours, to me this shows a filmmaker who isn’t afraid to push audiences all the while keeping a steady hand to guide them through a long, strange trip.

As Overwhelm the Sky opens, we meet Eddie Huntly (Alexander Hero) who seems fixated on a hammer as he meanders around his back yard. His cell phone rings and it’s his old pal and soon to be brother in law, Neil Selky (Deniz Demirer). While the two haven’t spoke in some time, they clearly have a bond and convivial shorthand. They make plans to meet up in the San Francisco area seeing as Eddie has just relocated there, seemingly without telling anyone. Eddie is a quiet, almost secretive guy and throughout the film patience is rewarded as clues arrive in the form of moments, interactions and subtle plot devices as to what makes him tick.

Shot in stark looking black and white, Overwhelm the Sky is a bit of a mystery from start to finish. Upon meeting Eddie, it’s clear that he’s in some kind of existential funk, the kind only a man approaching middle age can get to (as I can attest). However as the film almost literally unfolds, we learn more about Eddie via his interactions with friends and relatives. His Uncle Charlie (Randall Zielinski) tries to bring him out of his shell with bad jokes and random poker games. During one such game, Charlie’s odd, misanthropic (perhaps borderline personality disordered) friend Carmine (Raul Delarosa) makes an awkward appearance. His salty demeanor would turn anyone off but again, events unfold in Overwhelm the Sky with an odd, seemingly disjointed sensibility that, if patience is shown, gently shades in another area of Eddie’s modern day dilemma.  As Overwhelm the Sky progresses we see we’re dealing with damaged people, steeped in trauma, with no way to exercise those demons. The film mirrors and folds in upon itself again and again in interesting and unique ways.

Aside from Kremer’s keen and steady direction, an impressive part of Overwhelm the Sky is the acting, particularly from Alexander Hero as Eddie. Without giving too much away and, honestly I don’t have all the answers, Eddie is clearly in a bit of a bind. A seemingly accidental attack on a friend has put him in a tailspin mentally but it’s honestly unclear if said tailspin was already present and just kicked into gear as a straw that’s broken the camels back. Eddie is falling yet trapped in place. He’s moving but going nowhere until some kind of almost misplaced obsessive insurgence drives him. Hero shows real acting chops and nary a false note as our anti-hero hero. Overwhelm the Sky is indeed a challenging film but one, that given time and attention, comes to serve rewards and insights one probably won’t see coming.

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– Don R. Lewis (@ThatDonLewis)

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Don R. Lewis is a filmmaker and writer from Northern California. He was a film critic for Film Threat before becoming Editor-in-Chief of Hammer to Nail in 2014. He holds a BA in screenwriting from California State Northridge and is an MA candidate in Cinema Studies at San Francisco State.

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