What shapes a boy into a man? What makes someone truly extraordinary? These are the questions we ask ourselves when faced with difficult decisions and hardships. In The Better Angels, we follow a young Abraham Lincoln as he is raised in the sometimes unforgiving wilderness of Indiana.
First-time director A.J. Edwards crafts a beautiful film that can only be described as hopeful melancholy. I love the quiet patience of Braydon Denney who portrays a young Abraham in the film. He has that intangible confidence that exudes onto the screen from the very beginning as his eyes tell half the story. He conveys certain courage about him, exclusively esoteric to those that understand acting is not so much telling but rather feeling and experiencing. For that, this film is not only about Abraham Lincoln growing up but an ode to film when it gave a damn.
There has been a bit of a debate about what the film is trying to convey, is it really about Abraham Lincoln? Take the film out of context for a minute and picture it as just a boy growing up; Lincoln aside, it still succeeds.
The film is a culmination of the hardships of growing up and shaping who you are because of those experiences. On a personal note, it works for me because I connect with the hardships of moving somewhere new during my adolescence and adjusting to school in very new surroundings. The film is captured in beautiful black and white as it sets the tone for the entire film while the cinematography catapults the film into a free-flowing renaissance where nature takes on a form of not just setting but a character to sympathize with and examine more thoroughly.
Co-starring Jason Clarke (Lincoln's father), Brit Marling, a Sundance favorite. as his mother (Nancy Lincoln) and Diane Kruger as Lincoln's step-mother (Sarah Lincoln), the film chronicles the founding years of Lincoln's life and shapes him into the man he would later become. The film serves as a building block for Lincoln's principles, ideals and beliefs. I cannot wait for what Edward's next project will be; he is a true champion of filmmaking and a new voice in American cinema.