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The Independent Critic

Zoe Clarke, Zadie Walker, Juli Emmons, Matthew H. James
Chuck Kleven
Elliot Brady
16 Mins.

 "Frontier" Led by Young Zoe Clarke's Strong Turn 

There are multiple reasons to take a few minutes out of your day to watch Chuck Kleven's Frontier when it's released on Vimeo on November 18th, though I doubt there's a better reason than the breakthrough performance of young Zoe Clarke as Little, a 10-year-old girl whose two-day journey into the woods leads to a reality that starts to coincide with life in her favorite comic book. 

Scripted by Elliot Brady, Frontier effectively weaves together elements of harsh reality and fantasy to tell a story that is always compelling and not easily, or necessarily comfortably, resolved. Amidst it all, Clarke serves up a performance that is simultaneously vulnerable yet strong, childlike yet filled with that kind of strength that a child shouldn't need to have. 

Frontier is a 16-minute indie feature that serves up minimal dialogue while telling a story that has multiple layers that will leave you thinking and feeling long after the closing credits. Lensing by Joey Richey is pristine and perfectly captures the remarkable beauty of the southeastern coast while not compromising on the film's more intimate storytelling. Music by Matthew James was unexpected yet a delight, a creative concoction that worked perfectly with the story's stark reality and elements of fantasy. 

As Big, Little's father, Zadie Walker is an uncomfortable mix of menacing and "we're just not quite sure." It's an uncomfortable turn, yet an effective one and Walker nicely keeps it from becoming a caricature. 

Frontier had a successful year-long festival run that included stops at Nashville Film Fest, RiverRun, the Cucalorus Film Festival, and a prize for Best North Carolina Film at the 2019 Cape Fear Independent Film Festival. 

You never quite know where Frontier is going, a fact that remains true even as the film winds down and you're asking yourself "Is this good news? Is this bad news?" Brady's script is insightful, intelligent, and incredibly involving and Kleven brings it all to life with imagination and remarkable direction of Clarke. 

For more information on Frontier, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits. Next week? Get your butt to Vimeo and check it out for yourself.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic