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Nathan and the Luthier

by on October 16, 2011
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The first film by Indiana University student Jacob Sherry, “Nathan and the Luthier” focuses on the relationship between Nathan (Jeff Grafton) and his mother (Kate Braun) following the death of his abusive father.

Nathan returns home and finds his mother despondent, not knowing what to do with herself after more than 35 years, and finds himself an old violin, which, as a child, he begged his mother to buy him but that his father crushed in a rage.

He takes the violin to a shop and asks the grizzled, cantankerous shopkeeper (David Wierhake) to repair it. Unable to pay, he offers to clean and do odd jobs around the shop as payment.

The two forge an unlikely bond over the violin, but Nathan continues to neglect his heartbroken mother, who seems equal parts relieved and heartbroken that her husband is gone; mostly she just doesn’t know what to do with herself.

Technically “Nathan” is a strong film, using music, editing and sound very well for a debut film from a college student. The cuts are crisp, the music is well-integrated, and Sherry shows a talent for telling a story visually.

The acting and characterizations are a little stilted; we get almost no background on Nathan, other than he is somewhat estranged from his family; we don’t even know if he has a job or a relationship.

Alexander the shopkeeper is generically cantankerous and seems awfully crotchety for no good reason (at least not one we’re given). I think we’re supposed to believe he becomes a father figure to Nathan, but it never really comes through.

Of course, the violin is a metaphor for Nathan’s fractured childhood and the life ruined by his father. It’s not subtle, but it gets its point across.

“Nathan” is a solid debut from Sherry, worth catching if you’re heading to the Heartland Film Festival. It’s a well-made Hoosier film that espouses Hoosier values effectively enough.