A dark, apocalyptic science fiction tale that ostensibly features one single character, A Reckoning is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutality is not in its visuals, but rather in the psychological pain of the lead character, credited simply as “The Lone Man”. What makes this pain so visceral and so effective is incredible and captivating emotion of Leslie Simpson, the brilliant actor that portrays The Lone Man. Deliberate pacing, desolate landscapes, and creative use of scarecrow-style straw people bring Simpson’s acting to its full potential, letting him shine while accenting his every action.
The director, AD Barker, summarizes the movie as such:
The story of a lone man, trapped in a barren, desolate landscape, and his only companions: a village of straw people. They are his friends and neighbours; he teaches straw children at the local school. Yet, this anchor, this way of habitual living, is about to become unravelled in frightening and disturbing ways. Leading the way to A RECKONING.
The vision of post-apocalyptic Britain in this film is defined by one major theme and tone… loneliness. The central question that this films seems to dwell on is about the identity – and, thus, sanity – of a man absent any actual society. We, as humans, are social beings. Without as much as a person to share life wife, life may feel meaningless. Thus, our protagonist in A Reckoning tries to find meaning through creating his own society of straw people, complete with societal roles and occupations. The Lone Man, himself, is the town’s teacher, going to school everyday and even “grading papers”.
Within minutes, the weight of his reality sets in for the viewer, but the crazed denial of The Lone Man is a powerful sedative that allows him to live in a dreamworld of his own creation for a seemingly long period of time. The viewer can see the insanity and rose-colored lenses of The Lone Man, but he cannot. Of course, his dreamworld cannot last forever because life always has a way of becoming all too real. Thus, reality overtakes this dreamworld and our poor, lonely protagonist is forced to face the truth of his life and the world.
The biggest takeaway in this film really is Leslie Simpson, who truly delivers a tour de force performance. Barker’s writing and direction seem to bring out Simpson’s best by guiding Simpson, letting him deliver the type of performance that should earn him further roles in larger productions. Reminiscent of Will Smith’s brilliant performance in I Am Legend, Simpson’s performance is what this entire film is built on. While Simpson becomes more unhinged, there are a lot of threads that connects the two performances. Simpson’s feat feels a bit more intense and difficult, as the big action and effects that augment Smith’s performance aren’t there for Simpson. It really can’t be stressed enough what a great a performance Leslie Simpson turns in.
With that, a toast to Simpson, Barker, and everyone involved with this low budget sci-fi gem. Keep an eye on this brilliant actor and this promising writer/director; start by checking out this example of creative and emotional genre fare. Originally set to release in 2011, the film was lost in limbo until recently, the film is finally set to see the light of day. Check out the Barker’s Twitter or website for info on how to check it out.