Movie Review: Billy Banks

Billy Bates is an unsteady, beautifully photographed, repetitive, entrancing, frustrating journey which delves into the psyche of an artist without apologies. Written and directed by Jennifer DeLia this film proves that she has incredible vision and range as a filmmaker.

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The story is a non-linear slice-of-life of the artist Billy Bates. Beginning with him uncomfortably propped at a table preparing for an interview we dive into his mind as he struggles to answer questions about what his work means, where the inspiration comes from and how his past defines him.

Billy Bates is played by James Wirt. At his best, his gait and demeanor gush with a sensitivity and strength with deep authenticity. Viewers may believe that he isn’t acting but has actually been transformed into this character. Unfortunately, those moments are not during the interview sequences. These are meant to be awkward but feel like they’e tacked on, as if the director said, “be an actor trying to look tortured,” rather then what it is meant to be- an artist struggling to verbalize intimate subject matters to a stranger.

Savannah Welch hits all the right notes as Bates primary love interest Kaia. She’s a semi-confident, semi-seductive, songwriter who is both repelled and fascinated by the duplicity of Bates. Her demeanor is natural, questioning and her lithe, picturesque physique is beautifully matched to DeLia’s style.

There is phenomenal music in the film which becomes a layer of paint to the story. The original score is by Ryan Welker. Other songs by Little Death, The Trishas and Arthur Russellslide smoothly into the story. They’re noticeable enough to demand attention without overtaking the visuals.

Independent films have smaller budgets, yes, but they can still produce works of art that make the audience question, process and empathize with others around them and in all of these ways, Billy Bates succeeds. The film can be seen/purchased on: Amazon, Vimeo, iTunes and Google Play.

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