Tag Archives: Danny Ramirez

Kisses Are Hers and Hers and His


by Rachel Willis

Writer/director Jac Cron offers a slice-of-summer in a young woman’s life in the skillfully written film, Chestnut.

Annie (Natalia Dyer) is on the verge of moving across the country when she meets Tyler (Rachel Keller) and Danny (Danny Ramirez) at a bar. Tyler is the first to approach, and what begins as a shared drink becomes a budding romance.

Cron’s script is a subtle take on young men and women stumbling toward their futures, one uncertain foot at a time. Danny and Tyler work shifts at a high-end restaurant, spending their nights drinking at bars or dancing in clubs. Annie is easily caught up in this world, as she struggles with her fear of the future.

Though Dyer is the core of the film, it’s the scene stealing Keller is who draws most of our focus. Tyler’s dynamic presence is tinged with the unexpected. She keeps Annie off-balance, stringing her along in a way that may feel familiar to anyone who’s faltered in a new relationship. Annie’s joy and confusion is understandable. Tyler is often unknowable.

While Keller draws us in, Dyer often leaves us floundering. Her acting veers too often toward melodrama, which doesn’t fit the tone of the film. The awkward flirtation is awkward for the wrong reasons. Instead of coming across as realistic, it feels unnatural. It’s unfortunate the camera work seems to mirror Dyer’s acting, as neither are particularly interesting.

As Danny, Ramirez is left with less to do than either Keller or Dyer. However, he imbues the character with a certain unease that suggests there is more to Tyler than Annie realizes. His own relationship with Annie comes across more naturally, more honest, helping the audience understand what draws Annie into their lives.

Additional characters pass in and out of the film, each offering more to the picture of who Annie is. There are no overt realizations or narrative moments of clarity. Something much simpler and more interesting happens as Annie’s summer comes to a close.

As a whole, the movie has some hard-to-overlook faults, but the writing is good enough that it doesn’t really matter.

Postcards from the Edge

Root Letter

by Rachel Willis

Loosely based on a video game from 2016, writer David Ebeltoft’s Root Letter offers a unique take on the idea of a pen pal seeking out a friend in trouble. Though director Sonja O’Hara does her best to flesh out the surprisingly bare-bones story, there doesn’t seem to be much for her to work with.

Sarah (Keana Marie) is given a school assignment at school to write four letters to a pen pal. She goes above and beyond the requirements, exchanging dozens of letters with Carlos (Danny Ramirez), who was hospitalized after his girlfriend’s dad discovered Carlos in his daughter’s bed.

When Carlos receives a distressing letter one year after the end of his communication with Sarah, he sets out to discover what happened to her.

It takes surprisingly little for Carlos to find Sarah despite only knowing her first name and the name of her high school. Carlos is able to elicit help from an English teacher who offers him a not-so-subtle nudge in the right direction.  

There isn’t a lot of meat to Carlos’s character. He doesn’t serve as a guide to the past, since Sarah’s story isn’t told through interviews with her friends, but rather through flashbacks from the previous year. The present story doesn’t raise new questions or offer surprising twists to the story. We’re mostly biding time waiting to get back to the heart of Sarah’s story.

And yet, Sarah’s tale isn’t very compelling either. It’s weightier than Carlos’s forays into Sarah’s past life, but not by much. For a mystery, there are zero surprises as you can predict each measure beat by beat.

There are also too many characters even though the number was greatly reduced compared to the video game. Aside from Sarah, few of the characters come to life in meaningful ways. Sarah’s best friend is the kind of woman who’ll do anything to keep hold of a tenuous relationship. Sarah’s mom is a stereotypical single mom drug addict with a bad back.

Sarah’s friend Caleb (Breon Pugh) is our most interesting character, but his brief moments on screen do little to make him stand out.

There is a certain quaintness to the story, particularly in the beginning – who knew letter writing could be so endearing? – but any originality is dropped in favor of a paint-by-numbers mystery. If only the actors had something more compelling to work with, perhaps their earnestness would have been rewarded with a more watchable story.