REVIEW: “Giants Being Lonely” puts crying in North Carolina baseball

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Grear Patterson/ ROD3O

Jack Irv and Larry Miller in Giants Being Lonely (2019)

Stephen Lambros, Contributing Writer

Very few American feature filmmakers seek to create the kind of art cinema that would appeal to highbrow communities such as the Venice Film Festival. But with the eclectic coming-of-age film “Giants Being Lonely,” debut writer/director Grear Patterson has proven himself to be an exception.

Filmed and taking place in Hillsborough, North Carolina, the film has a lot to say about the oft-forgotten corners of small-town America—but the challenging editing style and moody atmosphere both result in a film that is not easy to recommend to general audiences.

“Giants Being Lonely” tells a story about two high school baseball players. One of them is Bobby (Jack Irving), the team’s star pitcher who sleeps around with the high school girls and the middle-aged women in town. Orphaned at a young age, Bobby lives with his grandfather and acts like he owns the town. Adam (Ben Irving), however, is the son of the abusive baseball coach (Gabe Fazio), and he isn’t nearly as good of a pitcher as Bobby—not only this, but he’s also unaware that his mom (Amalia Culp) is secretly sleeping with Bobby.

Giants Being Lonely (2019). (Grear Patterson/ ROD3O)

The most definable trait of this film is easily its technical bravery. Patterson presents the film in a way that demands a lot from the audience. The editing orbits around this central source of conflict, illuminating the unspoken tensions such as Adam’s jealousy of Bobby and the secrets that every character keeps from the others. Unafraid to take more inspiration from 60s and 70s French New Wave films than from anything being made today, the film employs jump cuts, grainy image textures, and huge leaps in time to give off the look and feel of classic art cinema despite its coming-of-age exterior.

However, many viewers will struggle to make sense of the events onscreen, specifically because of the oblique stylistic choices. A viewer cannot help but wonder if the same familiar story tropes—trying and failing to succeed at a sport, asking a girl to the high school prom—would be more recognizable (or leave a strong impact) if those plot beats were presented in a concise way. The effort to frame the story in vague artistic imagery is commendable, but it might leave some audiences wanting more from the story.

Overall, “Giants Being Lonely” is a solid independent feature that succeeds in displaying its moody atmosphere but ultimately comes short of communicating its message to a broad range of viewers. Nevertheless, a handful of engaging performances and the palpable ambition of Grear Patterson set the film apart from other films in the marketplace. It is not for everyone, but it is a bold film that showcases Patterson’s potential as a new voice in filmmaking. Here’s hoping Grear Patterson is given the chance to build off of this film’s foundation.

“Giants Being Lonely” is available to rent on VOD services such as Google Play and Amazon.