Review: Alex Magaña’s ’29 to Life’ (2018)

The production value behind 29 to Life is noticeable. Between the crips, clear shots and the overhead drone shots, it’s evident that a fair amount of time was put into perfecting the look and feel of the film.

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+- Recommended with Discretion – NR, Comedy, Drama

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After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Barnaby (Murphy Patrick Martin) goes home to discover that his parents are also kicking him out of their house. He’s jobless, broke, and unmotivated. He knows that he loves to cook, and even has the degree to prove it. With the help of an old friend, Madison (Diana Cristina), he slowly starts to fix what has been broken for some time: his pride.

The production value behind 29 to Life is noticeable. Between the crisp, clear shots and the overhead drone shots, it’s evident that a fair amount of time was put into perfecting the look and feel of the film. Although night shoots are often the exception, with improper lighting that distorts the otherwise beautiful locations. Some scenes are un-apologetically lengthy considering their overall contribution to the narrative, I suppose that’s part of Magaña’s style, but that also dampers the effectiveness of some comedic bits.

And while the production soars beyond the level of quality that most independent filmmakers are posed with, the writing, particularly the dialogue, sizzles out of frame; namely, the lines given to the character of Barnaby. He’s our main protagonist, and yet, most of his lines are atrocious and will turn a decent portion of the audience off. We, as an audience, want to like our main protagonist even if they have antagonistic qualities. However, Barnaby has absolutely no redeeming qualities that a wide array of audiences can empathize with; he’s deeply frustrating even towards the end.

Both Martin and Cristina provide some great character performances; Barnaby and Madison aren’t cardboard-cutout stereotypes that are often the center of films such as 29 to Life. It appears as if there is some level of chemistry between the leads, even if you can’t wrap your mind around why Madison desires to be platonically, or even romantically, involved with Barnaby. At the end of the day, it’s the two leads, production quality, and an established sense of direction, even though this particular style isn’t my flavor, that kept me watching. Not overly memorable, but not anywhere near appalling. If you have Amazon Prime, go give Alex Magaña’s 29 to Life a watch if this sounds like your sort of movie.

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Image via ACM Films
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Image via ACM Films

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