Hal Hartley is an american independent filmmaker who has done a number of films. His latest film Ned Rifle (2014) is the third film about the characters and story begun with Henry Fool (1997). I have sadly not seen the second film, Fay Grim (2006) yet, but it does not seem like that’s a requirement either. The films stand well on their own.
After Ned’s mother Fay is arrested after terrorist-charges, Ned is taken care of by the family of a local bishop. On his 18th birthday he sets out to find and kill his father, whom he blames for his mothers incarseration. Armed with a bible, a gun, one bullet and a seemingly endless supply of money he sets out to accomplish his task.
Along the ride comes the whimsical Susan, a 30-something, mentally unstable girl who seems to have centered her life around the poetry of Neds uncle, Simon Grim. She invites herself along, much to Neds disapproval. However, as much as he tries to leave her behind, she always seem to be able to catch up with him.
At the same time the bishop, Fay and Simon is contemplating a way to prevent Ned from acheiving his goal, without going too much out of their way in their efforts.
This is one of those films that could probably be filled with action, car chases, exchanges of fire in hallways and an endless plot of hide and seek where Ned and his father would try to outsmart eachother. However it is not. Instead Hartley turns down the pace, let the characters and story evolve, and tries to challenge how our sympathies shift throughout as the story unfolds. The actual finding of Henry is rather trivial, and the film is more about how the dynamic between Ned, Henry and Susan plays out. This is a far more interesting story in my eyes.
Contrasted to a film industry that more or less just remakes a small set of movies again and again, Hartley and other independent filmmakers presents a fresh breath, and dares to make films that will both surprise and challenge.