The story is a quirky take on the mid-life crisis, with forty-something door-to-door salesman Jerry Arthur (Doug Jones) dealing with a job he's resigned to but hates, the unexpected return of his estranged daughter Trisha (Alison Scagliotti) and his sudden – and, it turns out, fortuitous – meeting with a bunch of twenty-somethings with a penchant for punk music.
Among them is Jordan (Katlyn Carlson), bar tending at a local hang-out while she tries to figure out where her life is going. Jerry suddenly realises that life is taking him by the scruff of the neck and giving him a sound shaking. His attempts to deal not only with changes in his working life but also with an antagonistic Trisha, who is mourning the death of her mother, leave him confused and scared. But his burgeoning relationship with Jordan and his awkward attempts to understand and become part of the punk world slowly lead him to begin to understand what he is capable of in his life.
Sounds odd, doesn't it? But let me tell you, it works.
Written by David Hamilton from a story by director Morgan Mead and Andy Janoch, it moves along at a fine pace, although it doesn't stop the film from having moments of thoughtful stillness – Mead shows not only a knack for story-telling but also the capability of allowing his cast the time and space to create truly warm, well-rounded characters that lend huge substance to the story.
Another plus is the cast. Doug Jones has a ball with the title role of 'Jerry,' a part written especially for him, and it shows. His richly multi-layered performance is tender, thoughtful and very funny, while also being achingly poignant as the character struggles with a life that has dealt him no favours. The long haul towards regaining self-respect is writ large throughout Jones' performance, and for an actor known for his expressive physicality, Jones can do more with a glance than most actors can do with pages of dialogue. It is a performance that has quite rightly brought him 'Best Actor' nominations and a win at the Strasbourg International Film Festival.
The supporting cast is no less impressive, especially Don Stark as Jerry's best friend David, a fellow salesman and Jerry's sounding board. Once again the warmth of the character shines through, and Stark brings immense honesty and solidity to the role. Why he hasn't yet been award-nominated for 'Best Supporting Actor' for his performance completely mystifies me.
Catherine Hicks does a great job as Dana, the ballsy sales exec who seems to be in charge of her life but is not all she appears to be.
Alison Scagliotti as Trisha is all anger, bitterness and hurt, and her scenes with Jones are painful to watch in the best way – her anger makes you want to give her a sharp whack upsides the head, but you also want to just hug the hurt out of her. It's a terrific performance.
Newcomer Katlyn Carlson as the sassy, warm and intelligent Jordan is a delight, and bodes well for this talented young actor. She's quite a find, and hopefully this performance will bring her lots of attention – she deserves it.
Director Morgan Mead may be young, but he has a visionary head on his shoulders and he has turned out a film that has both wisdom and heart – no small achievement for any director, let alone one making his first feature film. Some of our more 'established' big-name directors should take note. And he did it on a small budget, too.
What makes the film even more unique is that it was made in association with Ball State University as an immersive learning project for students, who worked alongside established industry professionals to make a financially viable film. If My Name Is Jerry is the kind of film that results from such a collaboration, then more universities should take note and think hard about giving their media students the same opportunity.
My Name Is Jerry is a film to watch if you're up for some laughs, some tears, and thoughts about where you might be in your life. Do you need a change? And do you need to look Life in the eye and reinvent yourself? Sometimes it's hard, but it may also be fun pushing your own boundaries. It's a thought, isn't it?