Slightly surrealist, the Americana setting of writer/director Brian Levin’s film Union Bridge (2019) belies an underlying darker version of a wholesome southern town. The film’s protagonist takes a psychological journey down a rabbit hole of family mystery and deceit in this southern gothic movie tinged with a film noir aesthetic. The film also teases occult horror, but in the end, it is a gritty, though beautiful, dramatic film.
Union Bridge follows Will (Scott Friend), the jaded heir of a well-to-do family. Returning to his smalltown around the Mason Dixon Line, the prodigal son moves back in with his mother Jeanie (Elisabeth Noone) after living recklessly in the city for years. Soon after returning, Will reacquaints himself with the townspeople, including his childhood friend Nick (Alex Breaux) who has become a recluse due to his talks of disturbing visions and his restless digging for an unknown treasure. With the help of his high school sweetheart, Mary (Emma Duncan), Will must uncover what lies beneath the fields of the town, as well as the long-kept secrets of his family.
I would classify Union Bridge as more of a moody melodrama, one that makes use of familiar horror music and sound to create its unnerving atmosphere. Union Bridge makes excellent use of sight, sound, and music — heavy breathing, eerie and cryptic voice-overs, low string instruments, creepy piano — Union Bridge is certainly a stimulating experience for the senses. The film’s use of a mostly low and heavy string musical score which gives a heartbeat to the film, bringing Union Bridge to life even during its lulls. At times though, shots are excruciatingly long — it might be a good looking picture, cinematically, but for the sake of the pacing for the movie it often felt gratuitous of Mr. Levin to linger.
Besides some missteps in editing, Union Bridge really is beautiful — it has a narrative full of mystery and southern mystique, and its cinematography often looks like still paintings. Its mysterious characters lend themselves to the film’s uneasy atmosphere, which is further created by the film’s design of having an anachronistic filter as the story jumps back and forth between the past and present periods via Will’s flashbacks. Mr. Levin puts a lot of effort into building the film’s setting and atmosphere with sound and visuals, and it is only bolstered by the cast’s emotive performances. I particularly enjoyed Elisabeth Noone as the family matriarch, both aged and motivated by secrets — only the likes of Jessica Lange could have given a more enthralling performance!
Union Bridge has all of the telltale signs of a southern gothic film — rundown factories and buildings, undeveloped sweeping plains, characters who are a mix of drawl and drama, use of old-world knowledge such as magic, and aging debutantes. If you were into the likes of Stoker (2013) or Blood On Her Name (2019) [CLICK HERE for review] then you may be able to appreciate Union Bridge. Starring Scott Friend, Emma Duncan, Alex Breaux, and Elisabeth Noone, Union Bridge is being distributed via VOD and DVD by Breaking Glass Pictures beginning May 19th, 2020.
MOVIE RATING — 6.5 out of 10 ☠️