Three Days of Rain

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

THREE DAYS OF RAIN

5/10

USA 2002 (made 2000) : Michael MEREDITH : 98 mins

Meredith’s well-meaning, rather talky debut is a low-key variant on the well-established ‘intersecting urban stories’ sub-genre in which the key works remain P T Anderson’s Magnolia, John Sayles’ City of Hope and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. While the Altman movie was based on stories and a poem by Raymond Carver, Meredith’s script is reportedly inspired by half a dozen tales by Carver’s acknowledged 19th century Russian forerunner, Chekhov (not to be confused with Star Trek‘s less-influential Chekov).

This bygone literary basis is presumably rather loose, as Meredith’s interlocking vignettes seem to be very much located within specifically modern, turn-of-the-new-century lives – into which, as the title hints, a little rain must, will and does fall: true to the traditions of the short story, an apparently minor incident exposes the deeper, long-buried issues behind social and family relationships, as when a rich couple fall out over whether or not to give a homeless man their restaurant leftovers.

Meredith ambitiously incorporates a wide range of social strata as his camera ranges round the rather drab environs of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, and he employs well-worn methods to unify his various strands. Many of the characters happen to use the same morosely talkative taxi driver, and many listen to the same drawling public-service DJ, who keeps them (and us) informed on the eponymous torrential downpour.

The DJ’s face is withheld from the audience until the last minute, but the pay-off makes the wait worthwhile and it wouldn’t be fair to spill the beans here – suffice to say it’s a fairly overt nod to Altman, as if the structure of the film wasn’t enough in itself. This is one of several surprisingly starry cameos in what is (all too visibly) a very low-budget production: Blythe Danner has one brief scene; Peter Falk a rather meatier role as Waldo, a verbose old souse going through a crisis with his insensitive yuppie son; the cast-list mentions Robert Carradine and Keir Dullea in what must be very fleeting ‘appearances’.

While he’s created an effective showcase for Falk’s kind of expert character acting, Meredith is clearly no Altman, Anderson or Sayles. Three Days of Rain is an uneven film rather too comfortable within the established confines of ‘American Independent Cinema’ – this isn’t uninteresting territory, but it’s been covered countless times before with more effective and consistent results. The comic scenes tend to work best, when Meredith allows his performers latitude to come up with oddball, stylised characterisations (a plummy-voiced Studebaker obsessive; a snooty concierge; a spaced-out widow). Otherwise, the tone is all rather too bitter-sweet for its own good, and surely we don’t need Meredith (via the DJ) to verbally deliver his moral (“We are together in this thin realm”) at the end, no matter how valid and pressing this lesson remains.

19th March, 2003 (seen 7th February, CinemaxX Berlin – Berlin Film Festival)

For all the reviews from the Berlin Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young