Review: The Integrity of Joseph Chambers

Written and directed by Robert Machoian, a family man, hoping to prove his survivalist capabilities and manliness to his family, decides to irresponsibly head off into the woods and go deer hunting by himself. Starring: Clayne Crawford, Colt Crawford, Hix Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Carl Kennedy, Michael Raymond-James, Charline St. Charles and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

There are some films where you know exactly what you’re getting, others where you’ve no idea and some where you think you do and find out you’re wrong, The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is one of the latter. Initially, it gives you the exploration of the man-child, the fragile male ego and the need to boost masculinity and feel like the protector. Then as the crux of the story hits, it evolves into something very different, bringing in some chaos which almost goes to the point of being irritating but that only serves to dig into the character’s emotional progression. As it starts to calm down again, it burrows inward with trauma and self-reflection, it’s an extremely well contained story. It may move a little slow and short for some viewers but there’s a sincere purposefulness to it and you can feel the thought process that went into it.

Its slow movement is part of what feeds the story, it doesn’t skip ahead, it lets each key moment simmer and build. It works because it wraps itself up in the evolution of Joseph Chambers (Clayne Crawford), adapting its tone to each change that he faces. From the very beginning there’s an oddity to its atmosphere, there’s persistently something lingering in the background which you can’t quite put your finger on. Then when it opens up and reveals itself with the introspective and emotional style, it makes complete sense. Robert Machoian is building a complexity, the character is dramatically forced to take a serious look at himself and his choices, and in doing so, without needing to really say it, the film explores his flaws and their consequences.

Clayne Crawford packages all of that emotion with a lot of intensity, there’s a number of transitions throughout The Integrity of Joseph Chambers which he has to constantly adjust to. At any given point his character is in a completely different place mentally, whether that be panic, regret, self-pity or shock. Machoian’s direction and Oscar Ignacio Jiménez’s cinematography then do a great job of balancing out that wild journey of emotions by keeping a stillness and grounded quality to the aesthetic. The way that the camera moves has an observer style, using a lot of varied and wider angles. The palette nicely reflects the nature setting, using the depth of the browns and greens to add an interesting calmness to the chaos.

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is unusual, intriguing and has a surprising confidence in how it explores this story. It takes what could have been a succession of misadventures in ego, masculinity and maturity, and turns it into a portrayal of emotional evolution. Grasping fully onto how one moment can change your entire perspective of everything, which is brought to life with huge variety and sincerity by Clayne Crawford, in one of his best performances to date. Robert Machoian creates a nicely balanced atmosphere, playing off the chaos of the story with a stillness to the visual. Its resolution and style might not satisfy every viewer but it takes risks and creates something unexpected.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

In Select Theaters and on VOD February 17

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