'Natural Selection' is a breath of fresh air in the indie film scene. Director Robbie Pickering puts an original face and new spin on the standard road trip film, a plot line that has been played out time and time again. With the performances of Rachael Harris and Matt O'Leary, and Pickering's visual style, 'Natural Selection' rises above the rest in the independent film genre.
The film follows Linda (Rachael Harris), a shy evangelical woman who has been married to Abe (John Diehl) for a couple of decades. They live in a small town and both put God first before anything else. However, Linda is very sexually frustrated, as she hasn't been intimate with her husband for a long, long time now, the reason being that since Linda is unable to have a child, Abe believes they shouldn't have sex merely for pleasure. Needless to say, Linda is is pretty depressed about it, although she stays true to her husband.
However, one day as she is talking with her pastor/brother-in-law Peter (John Gries), she gets a phone call informing her that Abe has suffered a major stroke, but is still alive. It is also revealed that he had the stroke at a local sperm bank, which he has frequented quite often since they were married, and also enjoys watching fetish porn as he fills those cups.
Linda is outraged as she has come to think she has been unwanted by her husband for all of these years, but he still goes to the sperm bank every chance he gets. She feels inadequate, guilty, and overall worthless, mostly because she wasn't able to provide Abe with a child. So, Linda secretly looks into the sperm bank's files and finds one of the kids Abe has fathered, and thus sets us off on our journey so that Linda can bring him to Abe, in hopes of giving him a child he so desperately wants, before he dies.
Unfortunately, this kid is now in his mid to late twenties and goes by the name of Raymond (Matt O'Leary), has a wicked drug habit, a foul mouth, and has just recently escaped prison (we see the hilarious and brilliant escape in the opening scene of the film). From here we watch these two worlds on opposite ends of the spectrum collide with Linda's shy and true nature in helping, and Raymond's drug fueled rages and incoherent ramblings bringing one closer to another. Never done in a cheesy way, both are on journeys within themselves as they are physically on the road. This is mostly a serious drama, besides some of the story plot and the character of Peter, who literally goes insane, when he finds out about Linda's journey.
Harris is phenomenal in her role. It completely surprised me and I think she could win an Oscar for this role if it catches the attention of the right people. If you don't recognize Rachael Harris, you might remember her from 'The Hangover' as Stu's bitchy girlfriend. You won't even recognize her in 'Natural Selection' and she just steals the show. As for Matt O'Leary, he also does a solid job of playing a drug addicted loser. He plays it so well, that there is not one point of the film where you just can't root for him. He is very likable, even though he does some deplorable things.
'Natural Selection' is a fine film. It will be in my rotation queue for quite a while. The acting, directing, and story are quite engaging. This is a great addition to the independent film world. I definitely recommend this.
'Natural Selection' comes in a glorious 1080p HD transfer and is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The image looks great. The colors are vibrant with the skin tones very natural and smooth. The blacks run deep and inky as well. This is more or less a road trip film, so most of the film takes place in a car or outside, and the landscapes look great with wonderful depth.
I did not notice any aliasing, halos, or edge enhancement. The film is very sharp and clear, due in part to the RED HD camera, which is becoming the standard go-to digital camera for filmmakers. I was quite happy with this video presentation.
This disc comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and sounds great for a dialogue driven film.
The dialogue is crystal clear and is perfectly situated on the center channel. The ambient sounds of the car, wilderness, and people talking in public places get great use from the surrounds, giving the audio a bit of depth, in an otherwise shallow audio presentation. The music is also solid and never overbearing.
Your speakers won't get the full workout here, but like I said, this is all about the dialogue.
'Natural Selection' is a fine film and I can see why it won several film festival awards. The performances by O'Leary and Harris are phenomenal and the story is original and fun to watch. It's a bizarre roller coaster of a film that strikes the heart of the indie film scene. The audio and video presentations are nice, although the extras are sub par. My advice is to give 'Natural Selection' a shot, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, as I did.