A new film by John Touhey
Edited and directed by John Touhey. Produced by Louis J. Giovino.
Screenplay by Mr. Touhey and Mark Lickona. Music by Jonathan Fields.
With Joe Iacovino, James Garrett, Ernest Mingione, Kim Strouse,
Christine Drayer and Elli Fordyce.
77 minutes. Released in 2006.
Visit the Official Site
In the wake of 9/11, countless TV programs, newspaper and magazine articles, benefit concerts and the like have feebly attempted to put a sense of closure on that day, as if a flood of information and kindness could do anything but generate revenue. In the end, they’re little more than a band-aid barely able to conceal a large, bloody wound.
A new film, September 12th
comprehends the futility of that closure. In the process, it works off of the human condition under the strain of fear and death and impending doom. Directed by John Touhey from a screenplay he wrote with Mark Lickona, it’s an independent work decidedly short on production values but very wise, understanding, honest and compassionate—or, the exact opposite of what we expect from Oliver Stone’s upcoming Ground Zero movie.
Taking place on the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the main character of the story is Lori. In her twenties, she was killed in the World Trade Center, leaving behind some scattered misunderstandings, unfinished business and broken hearts. Her family, fiancée and an attorney remember her appearance, traits and goals in a life cut short for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The script has a keen awareness of personal loss, and the protection that survivors often try to find through denial and anger. Lori’s life is reviewed through photo albums and exchanges between her brother, Frank (Joe Iacovino), and husband-to-be Rick (James Garrett). But their shift from idealistic memories to fault-finding serves to camouflage the simple fact that Lori was someone they dearly loved and miss terribly.
Never maudlin or convoluted, September 12th
develops an authentic air of both mystery and sorrow, first through Lori (as an unseen lead, even her name recalls Preminger’s Laura
), into the seemingly complicated lives of Frank and Rick, and finally the lawyer, Eddie (Ernest Mingione), wrongly imagined to be an opportunist out to exploit their grief.
These three men transcend any of the film’s budgetary restrictions and deliver full, rich characterizations, especially Iacovino whose unvoiced but visible rage works to keep our attention throughout. By the end, his eventual epiphany is touching, if not heartbreaking—like the events of 9/11 and the lives it changed forever.
The only seasoned pro in the cast, Mingione wafts through the background with an air of secrecy, until we see his scars. His hangdog expression comes alive as the thought of putting the pieces of disaster together, only to sag at the realization that there will always be other gaps in the puzzle to fill.
Garrett accurately projects the sense of distance his character has from Lori’s biological family. His exchange with a neighbor (played by Kim Strouse) broaches the opportunity for closure, and the notion of starting fresh with someone new.
But no matter how warm and inviting she may be—in what could have been a throwaway role, Strouse becomes a brief but haunting emblem of hope—Garrett’s Rick walks the thin line between grief and self pity. It’s a dark, distressing area where the vision blurs and hope and desire seems useless. That September 12th
picks up on it with such casual aplomb shows how perceptive a work it truly is.
Copyright © 2006 by Ray Young