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The Independent Critic

Bryan Greenberg, Claire van der Boom, T.R. Knight, Marshall Allman, Jamie Hector, Kat Foster, Jamie Chung
Stephen Suettinger
Stephen Suettinger, Jim Beggarly
92 Mins.
Vision Films

 "A Year and Change" Picked Up by Vision Films for VOD/DVD Release 
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With his directorial debut, Stephen Suettinger serves notice to Hollywood of his ability to take a complex story and turn it into a relatable and emotionally satisfying film. A Year and Change tells the story of Owen, a divorced vending machine operator in his 30's whose hard partying ways might make you think he's still stuck in his adolescence. When a potentially tragic accident occurs while he's intoxicated, Owen begins to examine his ways and search for how to turn around his life.

While redemption stories are a dime a dozen, it's not often that they're as satisfying as this richly human and honest one. When Owen, portrayed wonderfully by How to Make it in America's Bryan Greenberg, makes the decision to stop drinking and try to start repairing the relationships around him, including that with his young son Adam (Drew Shugart) and his ex-wife (Kat Foster), it feels honest and authentic and incredibly real.

There are times when A Year and Change crosses the uncomfortable line into melodrama, though Greenberg and the rest of this ensemble cast are so strong that you really don't mind all that much. Jamie Chung convinces as the girlfriend that Owen finds in bed with his best drinking buddy (Dan Thiel), while Claire van der Boom adds an emotional depth as Vera, a bank teller to whom Owen becomes attracted.

The ancillary characters do become a bit much, though they are portrayed well across the board. T.R. Knight is strong as Owen's cousin Kenny who gets arrested for sex with a minor, while Jamie Hector nicely tackles the role of a neighbor paralyzed from the neck down from a motorcycle accident. Natasha Rothwell shines as Angie, Owen's brutally honest sister and a nurse tasked with caring for him in and his self-injurious ways.

A Year and Change may not be perfect, though it's in that very imperfection that it really shines. There's a naturalness to it that bonds you with its characters and a comfort captured beautifully by D.P. Michael Patrick O'Leary in the film's spot-on perfect Maryland locales.

A Year and Change isn't the kind of film that necessarily blows you away. Instead, it's the kind of film that draws you in and allows you to relax into it for the course of its just over 90-minute running time. The rare indie redemption story that actually works, A Year and Change is a stellar debut from Stephen Suettinger.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic