I sure wish they made more films like this one.

Down By the River is most likely a film you’ll never watch—and that is a real shame.  With its paltry $750,000 budget, it’s unlikely to come to your local theater and it might be tough to find it on DVD.  Tiny films like this simply don’t get the distribution a Hollywood-type production gets—and it’s a shame, as the film gets more bang for the buck than any recent film I can recall. A typical film from Hollywood will have a budget of at least $50,000,000—and perhaps four times that for a film designed as a blockbuster.  Even an indie film usually runs at least $10,000,000.  Yet, somehow the makers of Down By the River managed to create a nice little film for practically nothing.

Down by the River
Directed by
William Leonardo Molina
Adriana Ford, Sean Johnson, Alethea Bailey
Release Date
11 March 2014
Martin’s Grade: A-

Sean Johnson stars as Skylar—a working man who loves his mother and sickly sister.  This is a bit confusing at first, as the sister is quite young (about 8) and Skylar looks to be about 25.  Regardless, his sister and mother are extremely important and the film is how he copes with everyday problems as well as problems related to his sister’s Sickle Cell Anemia—and she has a particularly bad case.   I would love to say more, but it might ruin the film for you.  Suffice to say, you should have some Kleenex handy, as it is a touching film that might bring a few tears with it.

What I loved about this film most is that the movie is about black families and it lacks the usual clichés.  Skylar does NOT deal with stress by drinking, drugging, getting arrested or running from his.  He is a man—and a darned decent one.  Again and again, the film COULD have degenerated to stereotypes and clichés but remained true to the character.  Likewise, most of the rest of the cast is black and most of them are amazingly normal—something we need MUCH more of in films and on television—where black men too often are shown as either criminals or comic relief—not normal men.

There are a few other cast members who are not black (such as Skylar’s friend—I really liked this character) and they seemed amazingly real as well.  Overall, everyone just seemed very normal and natural.  Sure, a few times the acting wasn’t perfect—but considering their experience levels of the cast, it was simply amazing.  Think about it—the film was made on a Plan 9 From Outer Space budget (adjusted for inflation) and yet it is something everyone who made the film can be proud of and use as a stepping stone to other projects.

What I also loved about this film is that you can show it to anyone—your spouse, your mom or your kids.  There just aren’t enough films like this—especially films that are not cartoons.  I can’t wait to see what other work comes from these folk.

Currently, this film has a horrible rating of 2.9 on IMDb (only based on 10 viewers) and the review I am about to post there is only its first—though the film was completed in 2012.  When it does come out, give it a try—I doubt if you’ll regret it.  And, if you like it, rate it on IMDb — it deserves a respectable score because it’s NOT a 2.9 quality film.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer