Austin Film Festival: A Patient Man Review

Independent film reflects on the condition of the human mind in drama thriller.

To read ACCENT’s interview with the filmmakers, click here.

By: Nalani Nuylan 

How do we know the people we choose to befriend? By proxy, how well does the audience know the character(s) they are following?  

A Patient Manis the film debut of writer/director Kevin Ward. Screened at the 2019 Austin Film Festival, this hidden gem introduces Tom (Jonathan Mangum), a man who is trying to piece his life back together after a great tragedy. On his road to recovery, he befriends a man named Aaron (Tate Ellington) who rides the same train with him. All the while answering these pivotal questions in the process.  

Told in a nonlinear plot structure, the film takes the audience on a trip to solve the mystery of what happened to our protagonist while revealing truths on how grief, guilt, and revenge affect the human psyche.

The best way I can describe this trip is in the metaphor of a massive puzzle with a box that has no big picture finish. You will notice some key puzzle pieces and involuntary want to join the game. After seeing how some of the pieces of the film fit together, you will eventually begin to assume how the story will unfold in the end. Yet, as the audience puts that last piece of the film together the big picture may actually surprise you. 

That’s how this film was for me. I was already picking it apart for the sake of reviewing it. But once I saw a clue, I wanted to find more. Sure, I saw what was coming. But I also didn’t see it in when it came to the grand view.

Ward does an amazing job of hiding the clues to the mystery while showing a very real depiction of how a person can descend into revenge because of their grief. As the old joke goes, the descent into madness is not a rapid downward spiral, but a slow progression of moments. 

Mangum, who is mostly known for his work in comedy, shines playing Tom as we see his fake smiles at his work progress into the subtle flickers of dark intentions. I have to give credibility to Mangum’s performs as an actor. 

The praises continue to Producer and Cinematographer Harrison Reynolds, who used the close-up shots and the Los Angeles sunlight to completely flip the thriller tropes on its head. Rather than installing the suspicion, the clever use of Reynold’s surroundings in combination with his camera work when characters are in a conversation to instill this sense of security to only make the ending more enjoyable.    

For his film debut, Ward did a wonderful job of cinematic storytelling. Nicely paced and ever so juicy, one can’t help but marvel at the film being made on a minuscule budget and mostly shot on a moving train. 

This film will leave you with questions and an odd sense of satisfaction. It was an enjoyable ride, and I urge you to join along. 

Update on February 24:
“A Patient Man” is available to rent or buy on  Google Play Store, iTunes, and Amazon Prime Video.