Chad Hartigan received quite a lot of buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Morris from America, the tale of a father and son who transplant themselves to Germany suddenly. A lot of credit went to Craig Robinson, who plays the father, and Markees Christmas, who plays the titular adolescent, but Hartigan’s direction was highlighted at nearly as fervent a rate as his lead performers.
For me, Morris from America reiterates and admirably deepens Hartigan’s talent for dramatic invention and empathy for his characters, both of which were readily gleaned from This is Martin Bonner, Hartigan’s undervalued, excellent previous feature. Where Morris from America plays off of ideas about race, identity, ambition, and alienation, This is Martin Bonner looks at isolation from another side of the world, that of an ex-con who is attempting to re-enter society. The title character is a would-be priest turned volunteer coordinator for a non-profit that works in prisoner re-entry, and is played with tremendous charm and sterling empathy by Paul Eenhoorn. The film centers on his work with a particularly sensitive parolee, Travis (Richmond Arquette), who feels disconnected and out of sorts as he enters the free world once again.
Both films trade in the same kind of humane comedy that one finds in the work of Alexander Payne, Paul Mazursky, Joe Swanberg, and Andrew Bujalski, but has its own distinct narrative tartness that underlines its sweeter moments. In a saner world, Morris from America would be more anticipated than Star Trek Beyond, but considering the buzz of Sundance, there should be high hopes for this film, both fiscally and critically. The trailer, which you can see below, focuses not only on the relationship between Christmas and Robinson’s characters, but also how Morris comes to build relationships with a tutor, played by Wetlands standout Carla Juri, and the girl he falls for (Lina Keller). Between those exchanges and the eye-popping imagery that Hartigan teases in the trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morris from America ends up being one of the more memorable films of this year.
Here’s the trailer for Morris from America, via A24. The film opens in theaters on August 19th: