Alchemy of the Spirit

01/31/2023 09:39

Film: Alchemy of the Spirit

Year: 2022

Director: Steve Balderson

Writer: Steve Balderson

Starring: Xander Berkeley, Sarah Clarke and Mink Stole



This is a movie that I got the chance to see thanks to Justin Cook. He sent over the screener and the bit that I saw sounded interesting. As I was settling in, I also realized that this starred Xander Berkeley, who I like as an actor. It also seemed like he did extra work behind the camera as well.

Synopsis: artist Oliver Black (Berkeley) wakes to discover his wife Evelyn (Sarah Clarke) has died in their bed overnight. Brimming with magical realism, we enter a world in which the misconceptions of our belief in a solid reality are revealed.

What the synopsis gives is the opening to the movie. We get to see that Oliver and Evelyn have an older house in the middle of nowhere. It is set back from any roads and there are trees as well as lake by it. Oliver wakes to find that Evelyn passed away. The movie then takes us on a journey of grief and coping as Oliver decides what to do. Alex (Mink Stole) is his agent. Oliver is a painter and she has a job that he accepts. He buries himself in his work.

Evelyn is still here though. As the synopsis said, this challenges the idea that people pass on and go to heaven. Maybe they go to another dimension like our own. Oliver has out of body experiences where he sees himself from a window. This made me think that we were going to have time travel or at least the bending of time. This is a difficult movie to talk about, but upon seeing this and reading a bit about it, I now get the gist of what writer/director Steve Balderson is doing.

That is where I’ll leave my recap as there isn’t more that I can give about the story. This is more of a character study of Oliver as he comes to terms with what happens. We are also seeing stages of grief. We see at first, he denies what happened to her. He tries to keep the body preserved. I don’t know if he believes she has passed on. With their house isolated like it is, you could say that his sadness makes him delusional. He sees her. He talks and interacts with her as well. That is where you could also look at this as reality being bent. Maybe it is. I like that there’s an interesting scene where Alex comes and talks about a horrible smell. My guess was that this is Evelyn.

I’m not going to go through the other stages of grief and how Oliver goes through them. This movie is listed as Sci-Fi on the Internet Movie Database. It continues to go back to these orbs that are glowing. When it cuts away and then comes back later, they are always one less. I thought this was a countdown. By the end though, I think this signifies something else. Especially where this movie ends up. It is actually quite beautiful with what I took from it.

Since there isn’t more that I want to go into with the story, let me go over to the strongest part of this movie which is the acting. Berkeley is great here. Now I’m not sure where the personal touch came from. I don’t know if Balderson has dealt with the loss of someone so close or if Berkeley has and then he channeled into this performance. Regardless, I think that Berkeley is great. The facial expressions and body language of a man who is sad was on point. I also like how he and Clarke interact. I could feel the love between them which is good. Other than that, I’d say that Stole was solid along with Whip Hubley, Alex Coppola, Matthew Delamater and Jule Selbo. This has a small cast which works.

There is one last thing to go into which would be with the filmmaking. The cinematography is probably right behind the acting with the best thing in this movie. The soft focus used is great. It gives it a surreal feel which helps the atmosphere this is going for. The sci-fi elements are used in a light way, but also in a way where I can see the message this is conveying. We don’t get much in the way of effects, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Other than that, I’d say that the soundtrack fit for what was needed.

In conclusion, this is a movie that I came in knowing as little as possible and just experienced it. I’ll be honest, I tried watching this while staying up with my daughter who is a newborn and that wasn’t a good idea. I had to circle back. This has a heartfelt story behind it. It is more of a character study to see Oliver deal with loss and come to accept it. I’d say Berkeley was great with the rest of the cast pushing him to where he ends up. This was well-made as well. Not one that I can recommend to everyone. It is a work that is charged with emotion so just know that coming in.


My Rating: 7 out of 10