“Bomber” is a prime example of a movie that feels fresh and insightful even though its individual elements are familiar. It’s about a road trip, an underemployed 30-year-old man-child who lacks direction, a husband and wife who no longer communicate, and a family that must learn to relate to one another again. Not exactly a groundbreaker, obviously, but writer/director Paul Cotter’s feature debut benefits from strong performances and from Cotter’s knack for avoiding the obvious, easy resolutions.
The married couple are Alistar (Benjamin Whitrow) and Valerie (Eileen Nicholas), both British, fairly upper-class, and in their 80s. They are embarking on a road trip to Germany, where Alistar wants to visit a particular small village for reasons the film saves for later. (It doesn’t exactly spoil the movie, but it’s better not to know — which means you shouldn’t read the plot description at IMDb.) Their son, Ross (Shane Taylor), is an artist (read: unemployed) and not a particularly ambitious one. At the last minute, and due to his parents’ doddering incompetence, he joins them on their trip, resentful at having to leave his girlfriend behind.
The tensions, which Cotter mines for both laughs and winces, emerge immediately. Alistar thinks Ross is wasting his life. Ross thinks his dad is a stubborn old fool. Valerie only wants to visit dotty museums and 150-year-old Dutch shoe shops, and to keep things peaceful between her husband and son. She also, we find out, wishes Alistar would pay more attention to her, and Ross’ relationship drama with his girlfriend (conducted via cell phone) inspires her to take action.
What we have here are people who love each other, in their own fashion, but who have lost the ability to communicate. Alistar is haunted by his experiences in World War II, Valerie feels shut out, and Ross feels the frustration inherent in being a grown man with no direction. Cotter gives the two older actors some rich, heartfelt monologues to deliver, which they do with terrific warmth, and there is some real emotional pull under the squabbling and reconnecting.
I note that while the film was obviously inexpensive to make, it doesn’t look amateurish. Shots are framed beautifully, the colors are vivid, the dramatic beats come at the right time, the performances are as good as anything in Hollywood — the only difference is that the actors aren’t as famous and nobody spent $50 million on marketing. But it’s humorous and sweet, a lovely little film that deserves an audience if it can find one.
B+ (1 hr., 24 min.; )