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Courtesy of Ryan Eslinger
Given that it utilizes just two actors and one snowbound forest, there is an unexpected depth to Daniel and Abraham, the third feature film from Alton, Illinois native Ryan Eslinger. The earnest but callow Daniel (David Williams) is ill-prepared for the five-day winter trek he undertakes to scatter his father’s ashes in the Catskills. In the wilderness, he meets Abraham (Gary Lamadore), a grey-bearded, enigmatic woodsman who takes a perverse delight in tweaking Daniel for his failings. What begins as an innocuous encounter evolves into something more sinister. Abraham’s words drip with affable menace, but while Daniel is anxious to give him the slip, he is also shamefully reliant on the older man’s wisdom. The film’s dialog is curiously compelling: it simmers with nonsequiturs and discomfiting silences, and seems ripe with the sensation of two foes circling one another. Eslinger shot and edited the film himself, and his approach is both sparingly realistic and enamored with the voodoo of correspondence. The film’s world is one where the cold hostility of nature seems to bleed into the mind, making savages of civilized men. Lamadore’s performance—jovial, cagey, and oddly sinister—is one of the standouts of the film, along with the script. Co-written by the director and his two performers, it deftly explores the perilous junction of gratitude, obligation, and survival.
This review originally appeared in August of 2010. For more information, go to danielandabraham.com. To read Andrew Wyatt's interview with director Ryan Eslinger (and other SLIFF coverage) at Gateway Cinephiles, click here.