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Cinequest 2023 Film Festival officially selected Breakwater. The new action thriller from Blue Ridge Fall’s writer/director James Rowe is a powerful performance from Dermot Mulroney (Marvel’s Secret Invasion, Righteous Gemstones, Shameless). Actor and film both got good audience buzz after the premiere at the fest on August 19.

The story takes place in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Tourist season is over; lives of locals are going back to normal. Almost. Just up the coast Dovey (Darren Mann) has just been released from jail and he wants to make good on his promise to fellow inmate Ray (Mulroney), who asks Dovey to find his daughter (Alyssa Goss), whom he thought had made a life for herself on the Banks. But there’s more to Ray’s story, and this indie actually manages to hit all the most creative beats quite nicely.

Breakwater does nothing explicitly new in its storytelling process; it doesn’t twist genres together here. However, it emerges as a decent thriller whose twists are possible and whose cast members do their job well.

What starts out as an extended cameo turns into an unexpectedly tough portrayal by Dermot Mulroney in Breakwater. And Ray is not appreciated by other prisoners because he is aging either. He’s seen some things though, so when he sees a paper about an old ship that capsized floating up through what was thought was solid ground along with an older picture of Eve, Ray pushes him toward Dovey telling him she will be on this trip too somehow or another… If Dovey helps out with one small thing however…

Dovey reminds himself that he cannot travel outside the state during his parole officer meeting. His father warns him about impending danger ahead of him but having been locked away for many years now makes him trustful still naïve from time to time nonetheless… So off he goes towards the Outer Banks, where he will finally find Eve who appears to have settled in quite nicely as both a bookstore owner and tour guide. But there is something soft about Eve that changes a “pop-in-and-go” experience into something that might develop into romance between Dovey and Eve.

Eve isn’t told who he is by Dovey, but his occasional phone check-ins with Ray saying she’s okay seem to lighten the burden of this man, thus showing that he may not be the person Dovey expected him to be.

It was roughly halfway through Breakwater when it dawned on you that the filmmaker had pulled one over on you as well. As unexpected as it turns out to be, this film eventually becomes a standout thriller; an intelligent one too.

The performances are above average. It is slightly downtrodden, inquisitive and edgy. Nevertheless, this film looks hopeful even at that because of all those lies, revenge and all the gold one can get. Dermot Mulroney delivers some of his most memorable roles for years now. Darren Mann portrays Dovy while Alyssa Goss perfectly captures her motherly love character.

All in all, the film dialogue is an excellent reflection of mood. Some lines were good; “the devil doesn’t come for the innocent” and “wishes are for little boys, men who have given up.” There were others that lacked that roughness and intensity. Still somehow, this filmmaker manages to keep things down-to-earth enough to interest a general audience.

Breakwater’s backstory may give viewers an idea of writer/director James Rowe’s vision. He grew up in Western North Carolina, so the Outer Banks were on the other side of the state from him. Yet their mystique captivated him specifically because that area had a history with pirates and shipwrecks. At one point during the off season, Rowe was said to be visiting Currituck Beach Lighthouse. While taking photographs there, he suddenly developed an idea to build a story around that central architectural character.

Eve works as a tour guide at this lighthouse in the movie but rather than making it some kind of lighthouse horror flick, rowe wanted his story to focus on people getting second chances. In Breakwater, Ray, Dovey and Eve are starting over again in their lives. In this film it is evident why would a director chose such isolated yet cinematic places to start afresh somewhat lonely characters? This concept works well here and the film-maker has done quite well in capturing moody landscape with its merciless winds and rocks by showing it on screen.

Although elements tend to drop when attempting wrap everything up nicely into something like thriller-movie bow audiences can enjoy most things work out fine for this movie eventually. As they say Rower delivered what was expected though more force could have been brought out by ending which still remains true totality depicting feelings of film and its characters as well as being somewhat akin to didactic fable for children It flows well throughout themes like honor among friends or enemies if you will or any type example retribution actually.

This indicates that we should see what’s in the lighthouse. If you want, dive! C’mon let’s just give it a shot. There are people who will float and others who would drown. Would you like to go swimming? And then there was this moment when I could see light at the end of the tunnel. It is time for you to learn how to swim now my friend.

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