In the low key, touching, and darkly funny microbudget indie Mourning Has Broken – produced by Jason and Brett Butler for only $1,000 – a nameless man (played by Robert Nolan) goes about his daily routine angry at the world around him. An average Saturday afternoon’s worth of chores descends into a frustrating melange of bad behavior, inconsideration, and general disgust with the foolishness of the human race imposing their faux-politeness or their desire for convenience upon him. In some ways, the parallel to this story can be made to something like Falling Down or the “do you know what really grinds my gears?” episode of Family Guy, but thanks to the consistently funny direction of The Butlers and a winning performance from Nolan it rises above being a basic misanthropic comedy.
Here, the impetus for this man’s rage is very simple and sympathetic: his wife passed away overnight after a lengthy and trying battle with illness. Unable to process the loss of his only love at first, the man yanks his to-do list off the refrigerator and starts checking things off in an effort to avoid going home. On his travels the man has to put up with inconsiderate drivers, pushy sales clerks, rude drunks, movie theatre texters, inconvenient packaging, overbearing fathers, and price gouging mechanics, all of whom in one way or another he finds ways of dealing with or taking revenge against.
What makes the film rise above a simple Point A to Point B odyssey is that Nolan and The Butlers are working effortlessly to keep the proceedings just off kilter enough to keep the audience guessing. It’s never clear exactly how angry Nolan is going to get in a given situation, and he does a great job of playing a man that’s trying not to let it show that he has effectively already snapped. He could simply walk away (like how he deals with a hilariously overzealous sporting goods clerk), he could react violently (knocking out a bro that parked too close to his driver’s side door), or he could go off like a bomb (chewing out a whole movie theatre full of people for horrid, unbecoming behavior). Nolan seethes and rages quite wonderfully, but it’s the film’s quieter moments and beats where he realizes the gravity of his overarching situation that hold the film together.
There could stand to be about half as many variations on the man getting annoyed by careless motorists – most of which feel like padding – but overall the emotion always rings true, leading to a beautiful and quietly cathartic conclusion.