Chasing the Rain (2020)

“I don’t know why some people suffer through drought longer than others, but the rain always comes eventually. And when it does, the desperate, barren, thirsty earth quenches itself in a way that the lush, green earth could never imagine or understand. And I have to live in this tension because that is where the fire is.”
— A bit of wisdom from Ed (William Russ)

The streaming verse is rife with first-time (mostly indie) writers and directors. And some are better than others. And this debut proves that Cindy Jansen is one of the some and not of the other. Remember when Patti Jenkins blew us away with the expertly crafted Monster, her 2003 writing and directing debut? And Jenkins’s debut was, while highly regarded, also consumer derided. And so is Jansen’s debut. But that derision has nothing to do with Jansen being a female filmmaker in a male-driven Hollywood. Film is (it should be) sexless-subjective and, regardless of a filmmaker’s Final Draft and Canon Red skills (which Jansen has in spades), some films resonate and some do not with the today’s streaming masses.

And if you want to guarantee — regardless of a filmmaker’s sex — derision from a mass audience: tell your story with a non-linear narrative: for flashbacks, hallucinations, time jumps, the metaphorical and analogies, and long-running narratives with multiple storylines crafted by an ensemble cast (and god forbid, voice overs of a character’s thoughts) will irradiate a streamer to the point of rehashing how much they hated Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And for as many people that enjoyed Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and, most recently Once Upon a Time . . . In Hollywood, those (excellent, IMO) films have their detractors.

And so it goes. Where the film sprocket spins, no one knows.

When it comes to screenwriting, I’m of the Linda Aronson School of Non-Linear Storytelling — provided that formatting choice is not some esoteric, bells and whistles flight-of-fancy of the “look what I can do” variety and it services the character and the story (and in the case of Chasing the Rain, it does). (And why, can novels be non-linear and become best-sellers, but when a screenplay is non-linear, it’s a box office death knell? “It’s not ‘cinematic,'” they say.) At heart, man is a non-linear creature. Sure, as we objectively view the people around us, they’re moving forward, linearly. But when we consider the subjective side of man, internally rests his true essence. Man is a creature whose mental and emotional states are constantly multitasking. While you’re at your job, you’re flashing forward about your family responsibilities later that evening. While you’re with your family, you’re flashing forward about tomorrow’s job meeting or flashing back to the latest episode with that fellow, troublesome employee. Then there’s the sights, the aromas, the things people around us do or say that inspires one to reflect on a past moment. We daydream about the future-possible and the impossible. Then we snap back to the present. Non-linear is reality. Non-linear is real life. The external, objective adventures of John McClane and Martin Riggs, while surely entertaining, aren’t reality.

Thus, when a film like Chasing the Rain — with a non-linear and faith-based message to boot — flows down the digital pipeline, not everyone is jumpin’ aboard that gospel train to a cinematic transcendence. A film that addresses the concepts of freewill and ponders the philosophical: Are the world’s pains, one’s personal afflictions, and disease a test of faith sent by God or are those pains a jovial punishment sent by Lucifer to torture man?, isn’t floating the bag in everyone’s tea cup.

Well, I love my green tea. So pour it, Cindy.

Eric (Matt Lanter) is a soft-spoken and well-intentioned, yet spiritually-stumbling photographer on a volunteer mission project with a clean water organization assisting the citizens of an arid, poverty-stricken Kenyan village. When he returns to the States after his mission-of-good, he discovers he’s afflicted with a debilitating illness. Already fragile in accepting the good fortunes of his life, Eric’s life begins to unravel (again) as he questions why such suffering is bestowed upon some more than others.

We need not subscribe to Christianity or a belief system in any god to book ourselves a seat on the self-pitying, self-righteous freight train of pain to a spiritual Las Vegas where everyone is fearing and loathing; a city of sin where most are not blessed with baptismal waters of redemption, but with spiritually-destroying baptisms of fire. Chasing the Rain, regardless of its spiritual themes, is an authentic story concerned with how one copes in a dysfunctional family and with life-defining moments — be it the good, the bad, or the ugly. And when it comes to authenticity vs. hyper-reality in film, I always err to the side of quenching my celluloid thirsts from the pools of the authentic. Even when the waters go uncomfortably dark.

Sometimes, it’s all about that opening shot, yes, of a dung beetle: Come into being.

We’ve enjoy the work of Matt Lanter since the early 2000s courtesy of his work as Brody Mitchum on NBC-TV’s Heroes and as Liam Court on Fox-TV’s 90210. Lucasheads know Lanter as the voice of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars animated universe, as well as the animated voice of Aquaman in the DC-verse and a wide array of characters in the Spiderman-verse. William Russ has been on our TVs and silver screens since the late ’70s, but us youngins of the ’80s remember him best in his seven-year run as dad Alan Matthews on the sitcom Boy Meets World. The same goes for Cindy Pickett, who you may remember for her starring role as Dr. Carol Novino on NBC-TV’s hospital drama St. Elsewhere — and too many TV series and films to mention. I was also very pleased to see the matured, stellar child actor Hallee Hirsh — who totally creeped us out as Jenny Brandt, a pubescent-serial killer on TV’s Law and Order in “Killerz” (1999) — still in the business and effective as ever on-camera. If you were a fan (like moi) of NBC-TV’s E.R. or JAG, you’ll recognize Hirsh for her recurring roles on those series as Rachel Greene (Anthony Edwards was her dad!) and Mattie Johnson. It’s great to see these four, wonderful actors with starring roles in an expertly crafted to film to remind us why, anytime we see their name, we watch the film or TV episode. Their presence certainly served as my enticement to stream.

The real joy of the casting process for Chasing the Rain is that it allows for the (new) discovery of under-the-radar TV actor Eric Tiede as Stu, Eric’s best friend and roommate. Working his way through guest starring TV roles the last ten years on such top-rated network series as NCIS, Castle, and Major Crimes, Tiede brings an award-winning (or at the very least, a supporting actor nomination) nuance to a character that starts out as, what seems a selfish, throwaway party dude, only to transform into more than just a roommate. Tiede’s an actor’s actor that, as with his co-stars, is now an actor who, the next time I see his name on a project, I’ll stream it for his performance.

Speaking of streaming: When it comes to first time or unknown indie filmmakers, I’m of the belief that brevity is best; that, when it comes to a first time or more developed, but unknown filmmaker, their discovery is better served with a more commercially palpable 80-minute running time — and that even 90-minutes pushes a movie watcher’s willingness to dedicate their time to an unknown’s work. But hard media is dead and oh so ’90s; current media consumption is all about streaming, and so many indie filmmakers — sans studio backing with those pesky no-you-can’t-do-that executives holding the purse strings — have a tendency to be a bit weak in their abilities to step back and separate themselves from their work to make those hard, editing choices. However, with Cindy Jansen’s debut — courtesy of a well-reached and thought-provoking script, stellar cinematography from Lon Stratton (Standing the the Shadows of Motown), and solid acting from all quarters, this is a time where no streamer should have any apprehensions at this film’s one hour fifty three-minute running time. Chasing the Rain is one of those unique indie-streaming instances where every frame, every shot, is absolutely essential to the story and deserves to be on the screen.

Chasing the Rain is a beautiful, perfect industry calling card that leaves one wanting more from Cindy Jansen. Hopefully, the executive of Tinseltown will feel the same — and give her free reign to see her vision through.

You can keep abreast with the latest on Chasing the Rain courtesy of Indie Rights Films and at the film’s official Facebook page. You can learn more about the film and its creators courtesy of an extended interview conducted by Bonnie Laufer Krebs on her You Tube page. Courtesy of Shock Ya!, film journalist Karen Bernardello also discusses Cindy Jansen’s destiny in becoming a reluctant, first time director.

You can hit the big red streaming button for Chasing the Rain on Amazon Prime. As of February 2021, you can now enjoy Cindy Jansen’s debut film as a free with-ads stream on your favorite digital device on TubiTV.

Other recent releases from the Indie Rights Films catalog we’ve reviewed include A Band of Rogues, Banging Lanie, Blood from Stone, The Brink (Edge of Extinction), Double Riddle, The Girls of Summer, Gozo, Loqueesha, Making Time, and Mnemophrenia.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.

Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request for this film. We discovered the trailer on social media, were intrigued by the film, and requested a screener. We truly enjoyed the film.

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