AFF Review: Paradise Recovered
Esther (Heather del Rio) is a young woman in service to the local pastor of a fringe Christian group. She's obedient and accepting of the life her church has planned for her until an unexpected encounter leaves her cast out into the world without a home, spiritual or otherwise. When Gabriel (Dane Seth Hurlburt) and his roommate take her in, they take it upon themselves to help Esther adjust to her newfound and unwanted freedom.
Andie Redwine's script could easily have been cliché-ridden, and while there are stereotypical characters, the focus is on Esther, and her self-doubts and much as her self-discovery and she tries to find balance between the world she used to know and her predetermined path and the greater world where she must forge her own future. The initial crisis of conscience that delivers Esther from her dreary life is just the beginning; Esther is more homeless than she initially appears. verything she valued and relied upon becomes suspect, but she's not able to completely abandon all of her beliefs.
Heather del Rio delivers a delicately honest performance even when Esther takes some predictable paths. With quiet certitude and vulnerable moments of happiness, del Rio keeps Esther well within the realms of believability. Dane Seth Hurlburt's Gabriel is deceptively simple at first, but has surprising depth as his relationship with Esther evolves, and forces Gabriel to examine his own life.
Paradise Recovered doesn't try to answer the question of what sort of life is right so much as finding the courage to find out for oneself.
Austin Connections: Paradise Recovered is part of the Austin Screens program, and was shot in Austin as well as Indiana. Austin locations aren't clearly defined, although it looks like a Capital Metro bus stop is used. A side note: Stay through the credits, as unlike any other movie, this one doesn't have a "no animal harmed" disclaimer, but one for "one animal was saved during the making of this film."
Paradise Recovered plays Austin Film Festival again on Sunday afternoon at Texas Spirit Theater.