Directed by Sean Mewshaw, Tumbledown follows Hannah (Rebecca Hall), a widow living alone in rural Maine. Writing a biography of her late folk-singer husband, Hunter Miles, Hannah spends most her days drinking and plagued by writer’s block. She eventually meets Andrew (Jason Sudeikis), a pop-culture college professor from New York, who wants to research Hunter and include him in his book about late-and-great musicians. Reluctant to help him and unsure of his motivations, Hannah continues to grapple with her husband’s passing and whether or not she wants to move on in her life.
Tumbledown is Mewshaw’s directorial debut, and despite a few missteps during the film’s final act, he, along with first-time screenwriter, Desiree Van Til, create a pretty entertaining little romantic dramedy about grief and how one copes with it.
The film’s greatest success is how it builds Hall and Sudeikis’ relationship overtime. By quickly moving past the oftentimes annoying formulaic device of “hate at first sight,” Mewshaw makes the smart choice of just showing two people bond over something that they obviously love, and it’s because of this choice of direction that we’re not left wondering why these people should even be in same vicinity of each other. Hall’s Hannah and Sudeikis’ Andrew have their own reasons for wanting to write about Hunter Miles and his music, and there reasons for doing so are not out of selfishness, but out of grief. It’s their few moments of honest bonding and playful ribbing (for the most part) that makes them likeable and well-worth following.
In between Hall and Sudeikis’ various moments of banter, we’re introduced to Tumbledown’s supporting cast of characters. Joe Manganiello plays Hannah’s tall, dark and awnry “friend with benefits,” who (when not busy bullying Peter Parker at Midtown High) spends most of his time bullying Andrew for his “city-slicker” ways. Richard Masur and Blyth Danner also co-star as Hall’s affectionate, free-spirited parents. The standout among the supporting players is Griffin Dunne (horror fans might know him best for his work in An American Werewolf in London), who plays a local bookstore owner and Hannah’s friend without benefits. Though he has a small role in the film, he manages to be exceptionally charming throughout.
Cinematographer Seamus Tierney also does a great job of capturing the grandeur of Maine during the winter. It’s not often that a romantic comedy takes so much care in showcasing the beauty of its setting, but Tierney’s focus on Maine’s snow-covered forests and frozen lakes provide Tumbledown with a more somber tone.
However, despite the grounded performances of Hall and Sudeikis, and a strong second act that manages to avoid the typical clichés often found in romantic comedies of today, the film sadly succumbs to the basic conventions that often plague the genre. All within the last 15-minutes of the film, Tumbledown manages to race towards the end while checking off the typical plot points we so often see in many romantic movies. Within those few minutes, we get the “lustful sex-scene,” “the moment of regret” and “the last-minute confessions of love.” While it’s probably silly to have expected anything else, the film seems so much more at ease when exploring the effects of grief in its chilly, wintery-setting.
Though it ends on a somewhat frustrating note, Tumbledown is worth seeing for Hall and Sudeikis’ performances alone, and when the film manages to buck the common conventions (at least at first) that are often seen in rom-coms and dramedies, it’s a very enjoyable watch.
I give it 7 out of 10 Boxer puppies.