At some point or another in time, we’ve all failed to be there for friends. All gotten so wrapped up in our own lives that the ones who most count on us somehow fade into the background. In Chris Lowell’s directorial debut, we find just this scenario. Best Still Waters is a story about love, friendship and the ties that bind us together.
Daniel has just lost his mother and father. As he spirals deeper into depression, his childhood friends show up for a weekend away at his parents’ lake house. Each carrying their own baggage, they must come to terms with the lies they tell each other and themselves once reunited. Very much inspired by the 80’s classic The Big Chill and reminiscent of this year’s Tribeca Film Fest favorite, About Alex, Beside Still Waters deals with “what if”s and “what might have been”s. Reality swiftly punching each character in the gut or to be more specific, slapping them in the face.
I was lucky enough to attend the red carpet premiere and chat with Chris and the cast about their experience working on this film. It was very clear there was so much genuine love between these people.
I asked Beck Bennett about his relationship with Chris and if he felt like he had room to improvise- “I always enjoy improvising, it’s in my background, but I was also a little nervous because we shot on film. We didn’t have tons of time and every time you shot a take it costs money… So there was a little bit of improvising.”
“It was just such a social experience,” explains Jessy Hodges, when speaking of getting to know each other on set.
Erin Darke talks about her first day before filming- “It was a fairly small town and we took over this bar and I’m pretty sure we terrified the people of this town in Michigan, because we were dancing and having a great time, and singing. And they were like, ‘We’re here to have a beer.’ So yeah, that was amazing.”
I asked Chris how old he was when he decided he needed to direct a film- “I mean probably like 8, I mean since I can remember and honestly directing was born out of being a control freak and also wanting to act and needing a reason to act. So my thought process was well, I’ll just direct something that I’ll act in. Ironically when I did finally direct something, I didn’t wanna act in it at all.”
What was the best moment for you off set?
“Just getting this cast together and this is the first time all 8 of us have been together since we wrapped. I was like balling my eyes out beforehand.
I thanked Ryan Eggold for talking to me and expressed that there appears to be so much love between the cast members-
“There’s way too much, it’s disgusting.”
It is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.
“I know, it’s gross.”
The best gross ever.
The after party was held at Hotel Chantelle rooftop for Black Velvet Whiskey Slaps and Stella. On the guest list were a slew of talent such as Tom Lipnski (Suits), writer/director Amy Heckerling, Alison Wright (The Americans), and fellow SNL cast members Taran Killam, Sasheer Zamata, Aidy Bryant, and Kate McKinnon. A special treat was getting the opportunity to talk with some of the Kickstarters backers. Their passion and belief in the project has launched Beside Still Waters to it’s premiere. Memories have been made, relationships forged, and a film with a ton of heart is the end result.
Chris’ dream cast gives superb performances all around. Ryan Eggold‘s portrayal of Daniel is damaged and thought provoking. He represents us all in times of desperation and loss. Clinging to the familiarity of poor choices to numb the pain and disappear into sadness. But his presence is vibrant all the same. You want to both hug him and smack him as he illustrates some very cringeworthy behavior. He’s just a guy trying to climb out of a hole with what appears, on the surface, as very little help.
I would be remiss if I did not give a huge round of applause to Beck Bennett. First known to many from those incredibly funny AT&T commercials where a guy in a suit sits behind a small table asking kids seemingly innocuous questions. The result was an advertiser’s dream. Beck has since become a cast member on SNL, and for me, steals this film. Sporting what one might call a “porn-stache” and carrying the air of hipster/underachiever, he brings his nonchalant shenanigans into the mix. He delivers a never over-the-top, but a beautiful, even-keeled snark that is hiding just under the surface of every possible lull in the script. Speaking to him after the screening Sunday evening, a little bird may have let it slip that he misses the mustache. But that’s just “hearsay”.
I must give a huge pat on the back to both Chris Lowell and Mohit Narang for a witty and biting script that is so culturally relevant and yet completely timeless. This story is not necessarily new but well crafted and totally relatable. The film is still surprising and nuanced. A fantastic touch is the element of black and white still photography used as a method to illustrate Daniel’s memories. The photographs taken by Lowell were a classy touch to give us a feeling of sense memory. Added bonus being the super 8 video, which if I had to guess, was comprised of real moments of the cast hanging out together.
Beside Still Waters really delivers in every aspect. I laughed out loud throughout. I smiled from ear to ear and felt like I knew each character personally. For a directorial debut, I’d say this pretty much takes the cake.
BESIDE STILL WATERS opens this Friday, November 14th.
Directed by: Chris Lowell Written by: Chris Lowell and Mohit Narang Starring: Ryan Eggold, Beck Bennett, Brett Dalton, Britt Lower, Reid Scott, Jessy Hodges, Erin Darke, Will Brill