Last Monday night I saw the Seattle International Film Festival premier of B. F. E., a very good low budget film by actor-writer-director Shawn Telford. His first feature film, the move demonstrates Telford’s gift for direction and complex storytelling in the vein of Robert Altman. Shawn is particularly adept at casting and getting the most out of a string of talented young actors and several older ones as well. Ian Lerch and Kelsey Packwood performed beyond their years as the principal lovers. Both Hans Altwies and Abby Dylan were very credible as well.
Shot in Post Falls, Idaho, the film is the tale of teenage friends struggling through a haze of drugs, hormones and adult antics that range from the neglectful to the criminal. But don’t think this is a depressing movie. There is plenty of humor and even hilarity sprinkled through the first act that makes you laugh and gives you hope for the characters. Much of it is supplied by veteran actor Walter Dalton (Wendy and Lucy). A Hollywood comedy writer for years (Barney Miller and Laverne & Shirley), Dalton plays the wise grandfather desperate to end the indignities of old age. If that doesn’t say comedy to you, it’s because you haven’t seen how skillfully he plays the part.
And there is drama too, most of it forced on the kids by two terrible adult men and a sad, useless mother in rehab. The humor recedes as does Dalton, as is appropriate for the story. The problems of these kids become so stark and seemingly insurmountable that by the end of the second act I had serious doubts about the film, thinking the director had lost his way. But no. Dalton returns at the ending with a heaping serving of wisdom delivered with a shocking but caring touch.
After seeing this film and Wendy and Lucy, I’d like to make the argument that the measured acting skills Walter Dalton possesses now could make him a bankable character actor in the manner of Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Lloyd and perhaps even the elegant Morgan Freeman.
To movie watchers everywhere I would like to recommend B.F.E. Creating this fine low-budget, debut film, Shawn Telford bears watching as well. I think he has what it takes to become a first-rate director of major motion pictures.