From director D.C. Hamilton and screenwriter Brinna Kelly, The Fare is a film that almost defies categorization. At times, if feels like a science-fiction mystery, with shocking and striking narrative shifts. At other points, it appears as a romantic dramedy, following the bizarre development of the relationship between a pair of star-crossed lovers. This unconventional conglomeration of tones might seem doomed for failure from the outside looking in, yet, thanks to efficient efforts from the filmmakers, what results is a film that is far more compelling and memorable than one might expect. Working with an extremely limited cast and a singular location for the majority of the film (the interior of a taxicab), Hamilton and Kelly ambitiously guide along this potentially precarious feature with admirable control and precision.
The story follows Harris (Gino Anthony Pesi), a stereotypical, stuck-in-a-rut cab driver who is growing ever weary of the same old, same old he deals with on a daily basis in this profession. He has never truly expanded his horizons or tried anything out of his comfort zone. In the past, there was a woman in his life, but that ended a while ago. Now, he is just along for the bland, uneventful ride that comes with each new day. That is, until one unusual evening, when the bright, beautiful, and radiant Penny (writer Brinna Kelly) steps into his cab on a desolate stretch of desert highway. The crux of the narrative revolves around the relationship of this fascinating duo. They do not appear to have a great deal in common, but there is undeniably a spark of connection between the two. Yet, the question remains: What is the root of this link? This query continues to become more significant as the plot develops. Strange, outlandish, and peculiar situations arise over the course of this night.
Harris experiences a heavy sense of déjà vu as they drive along. Certain events seem to repeat themselves. He feels that this specific conversation with Penny has been had before, or that exact radio advertisement was aired only moments earlier. Eventually, Harris comes to the conclusion that his confusion is totally warranted. He is indeed caught in a time-loop. Hours upon hours have been spent driving along this lonesome desert road, picking up Penny at regular intervals, and then suddenly beginning the cycle again with little warning. There is a strange electrical phenomenon in the atmosphere that is perhaps related to this ordeal, but the mystery of “why” remains. Audience members familiar with the classic sci-fi television series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) or Steven Spielberg’s 1977 feature Close Encounters of the Third Kind or any Alfred Hitchcock film, for that matter, are bound to recognize some wonderful homages and tonal similarities in The Fare. Yet, D.C. Hamilton makes it a point to avoid completely rehashing these stories. The influence is obvious, but the final product remains unique and possesses its own nature of individuality.
Stylistically, there are other perceptible inspirations in terms of the cinematography (DP Joshua Harrison) and editing (D.C. Hamilton). The first act of the film is shot in black-and-white, with a certain narrative shift prompting the switch to color. The majority of the final two acts of the film remain in color, but flashbacks return to a black-and-white format. Film fans will recognize this technical decision to be very similar to Christopher Nolan’s 2000 drama, Memento. The character arc of our protagonist, Harris, does indeed parallel the journey of Guy Pearce’s character, Leonard Shelby, in Nolan’s film. Harris struggles to piece together memories from his past, and the associated emotions, in order to gain a better grip on his current predicament. Just how well does he know Penny? Do they have an intertwined history? How much does she know about these extraordinary circumstances, and what is she hiding from him? The dynamic between Harris and Penny carries the story forward, thanks to its incredible depth and rich nuances. There is meaningful drama juxtaposed with light and playful comedic relief. There are flickers of true, honest love, but also moments of distrust and skepticism. Brinna Kelly’s dual efforts in the screenplay and in her role as Penny are commendable. This balancing act might have been hazardous, but Kelly’s walk of this tightrope was even and smooth for the bulk of the feature, although, the criticism could be made that some of the witty dialogue and foreshadowing in the script are a bit heavy-handed. Additionally, the last twenty minutes of the film struggle to find the sweet spot with pacing, ambiguity, and exposition as the mystery unravels and the loose ends are tied up. Still, this is hardly detrimental to the film as a whole. There is a considerable amount of quality content to appreciate and praise before noting these issues.
The versatile musical score from Torin Borrowdale is a real stand-out on the technical side of the film, with arrangements evoking a broad array of emotions. From eerie and mysterious, to chilling and suspenseful, to lighthearted and upbeat, Borrowdale marvelously manipulates the evolving tone of the narrative. Similarly, the sound design creates the feelings of isolation felt by the two main characters. The creaks and groans of a run-down taxi, the crunch of gravel under the wheels on a barren highway, the drone of cicadas in the night, these are all palpable, tangible elements that reach the viewer on a personal level. Furthermore, the camera movements are quite captivating. The incorporation of sweeping drone shots tracking the motion of the taxi across the barren landscape provides a splendid visual illustration of the remoteness and secluded essence of the story’s themes. Both visual and audible components of the film work in unison to further absorb the audience.
The Fare is a motion picture that will move you with its poignant subject matter, make you laugh with its subtle humor, and have you on the edge of your seat with its thrills and surprises. There are times in the film when its ambitions might outreach its range of motion, but the comprehensive output produced by the filmmakers is impressive. Viewers in the market for a mentally stimulating cinematic experience with Hitchcockian flair, the imagination of a Spielberg feature, and the drama of a Nolan film, are sure to be in for a treat.
Available on VOD and Blu-ray beginning November 19th 2019.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.