Back Roads

Set in a small Pennsylvania town in the mid 1990s, this lugubrious drama follows a young man (Alex Pettyfer, who also directed) tasked with raising his three younger sisters after their mother goes to prison for murdering their father. The protagonist enters into an affair with an older, married woman and becomes unhealthily attached to her, his obsession pointing to repressed feelings of shame and guilt surrounding his broken family. The film runs just over an hour and a half but feels at least twice that long; Pettyfer draws out every line of dialogue until it sinks like a stone, and the camera moves so slowly that you might wonder if cinematographer Jarin Blaschke had molasses stuck to his shoes. Still, you have to admire the filmmakers’ unwavering seriousness and their refusal to render the story salacious. Tawni O’Dell adapted her 2000 novel with filmmaker Adrian Lyne.