Updated: Jul 11
**This review may contain spoilers**
“For Hannah” is a “slow-burn thriller” about a desperate man on the run who stumbles across a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere on Christmas Eve. When he encounters the husband and wife that live there, he quickly realizes that things are more complicated than it seems. Is he taking them hostage or is he the savior the wife has longed for? Things unravel quickly, as twists and turns leads to dark secrets revealed and the small town of Pine Ridge will never be the same again.
The film opens in a cinematic way, on the pristine snow, giving the viewer a feeling of desolation, isolation. The cinematography in the sequence of scenes that open the film is a sight to behold for the viewer. You really feel the coldness, the isolation, as they are shot in a way with many extreme long shots, setting the mood for the entire film, with the gently falling snow in a grand landscape, bathing the viewer in a sea of white snow in the middle of nowhere.
Lillian Likes…The musical score in this film, composed by DC McAuliffe. It perfectly complements the powerful, cinematic imagery in this film’s opening. Dramatic, tense, powerful, as it captures the suspense of what follows in the film.
Lillian Likes…The production design by Crystal Forlano, who really went above and beyond to use striking colors with all of the Christmas lights, with overtones of softness and pinks and overall warmth, to contrast the stark, albeit pristine white, seemingly endless snow as the main character is on the run.
Lillian Likes…The undercurrent of dark humor in this film. Although this is clearly a suspenseful crime drama, the writers and director infuse elements of humor throughout the film. This is on display in the scene where Frank (Ric Morgan) and Emma (Carla Abruzzo) are watching the news about the bank robbery and the giddy news reporter, Laurie (Marla Seidell) gleefully describes the news story about the bank fire and robbery.
Lillian Likes…The striking imagery and cinematography captured by veteran director John Wesley Norton, as Chance (Shannon Brown) treks through the never ending snow covered landscape. The heavy use of extreme long shots really accentuates Chance’s isolation and desperation.
Lillian Likes…The way that the director and editor build up the suspense with the use of cross cuts between the wife as she prepares Christmas Eve dinner and this mysterious man running through the snow covered woods.
Lillian Likes…The subtext created between the two actors in the scene is fully fleshed out between the wife, Emma, and the husband, Frank, as Emma serves her husband with an uncomfortable silence heightening the tension between them, as Frank clearly has a disdain for his fearful, but dutiful wife.
Lillian Likes…The costume design by Gary Nocco, who really captured the almost 1950’s housewife energy in Emma’s look with overt feminine tones, and the humorous “ugly Christmas sweater” that Frank wears with the lamp on it from “A Christmas Story.” Nocco’s costume design trademark is imparted on the waitress as well as she dons her quaint and almost nostalgic small-town diner waitress look.
Lillian Likes…The DP’s framing of the shot of Chance looming over Frank, who has been knocked out, with the light behind him giving an almost halo effect behind his head.
Lillian Likes…The tension captured by the almost nails on a chalkboard rendition of “Angels We Have Heard on High” playing in the background of the scene where Chance has now officially taken the couple hostage. There are clearly secrets that this couple hold, and it really left the viewer with questions about what lies beneath this looming mystery.
Lillian Likes…The whole small town feel wrapped around this film, with the sheriff and deputies, with the diner, and reminded me a bit of “Twin Peaks” and “Fargo.”
Lillian Likes…The dialogue writing in this film. There are a couple of lines that made me chuckle, and it was primarily between Sheriff Cooper (Bruce Spielbauer) and Deputy Gale (Suzette Brown). There is a line where the Sheriff asks, "What makes you think he may be still in the area?" and Deputy Gale sarcastically responds, "Someone...has to think.” There is another line where Deputy Gale asks Sheriff the question: “Why are your stories so long?” and the Sheriff quips back, “For dramatic effect." These subtle lines really captured the characterization of the small town.
Lillian Likes…The vibe of “The Ref” film from the 90’s where a fugitive ends up holed up at a house on Christmas Eve and encounters a couple with a myriad of relationship problems that have to be hashed out much to the aggravation of the intruder, played by Denis Leary. Shannon Brown’s portrayal of the desperate fugitive who quickly loses patience with the couple and their obvious problems has this similarity. However, this film takes it a step further where the husband in this case, seems to be an abusive, controlling jerk to his oppressed wife.
Lillian Likes…The choice to overwhelm the audience with all of the Christmas décor in this couple’s home, even down to the Christmas lights on the headboard of the bed. This is deliberate as the writers are clearly trying to show the image that this couple is trying to present, an idyllic home life, almost to overcompensate for the real turmoil going on beneath the surface of the abusive relationship.
Lillian Likes…Shannon Brown’s performance as a man tormented by his actions to get the money for his niece’s surgery. Brown’s intensity is palpable in almost every scene as he interacts with the couple, and he plays desperate man on the run well.
Lillian Likes…Bruce Spielbauer’s performance as Sheriff Cooper, who plays doddering, small town sheriff well, counting the days until his retirement, reluctantly taking on the case of locating the fugitive that robbed the bank.
Lillian Likes…Suzette Brown’s performance of the plucky and determined Deputy Gale who, trying to make her mark to take the Sheriff’s place, pushes to find the fugitive as her growing suspicion continues to nag her conscious. This character, along with the serene snowfall, and tense undertones, gave the whole “Fargo” vibe.
Lillian Likes…Carla Abruzzo’s performance of a fearful woman, desperately trying to please her husband who clearly controls her, and made me almost think of a “Stepford Wife” in her attempt to make herself perfectly feminine and pleasing.
Lillian Likes… Kayla Kelly’s performance as the quirky waitress at the local diner as Deputy Gale and Deputy Williams (Harold Dennis) question her. This added a comedic element as she portrayed this small town waitress who just liked to ramble on at length about unrelated things, much to the annoyance of Deputy Gale.
Lillian Likes…The movie poster that has Shannon Brown looking intensely at the audience, as Carla, “caught in the middle” looking off, and Ric in the background looking away in this interesting layout of the three.
Lillian Likes…The cinematic framing of the scene where Emma starts to unravel her perfect façade as she is brushing her hair while gazing in the mirror. There are the heavy pinkish overtones emphasizing the feminine role of Emma. Then in a show of feminist defiance Emma is shown feverishly wiping off her perfectly applied makeup.
Lillian Likes…The interesting plot choice to have Emma seduce the intruder, and we come to discover the source of the title, where we learn that Chance robbed the bank to help his niece with a mysterious illness, as he did it for Hannah. Clearly Emma is looking for a way out of her relationship with her husband. And this mysterious man on the run is the perfect medicine for terrible life.
Lillian Likes…The dark humor intersperse in this film, serving as a perfect contrast to the tense drama. There is a scene where Chance is watching some TV and a whacky TV commercial comes starring Frank as “Frank the Tank” hocking his used car business, much to Chance’s amazement at the irony of the fact that he stole a getaway car from the lot.
Lillian Likes…The escalading suspense as Browning (Joe Caballero) breaks into the home to collect money from Frank, who has a side business laundering money for organized crime. As Browning creeps up the stairs, we just know he is about to have a rude awakening when he stumbles upon Chance, basically an intruder vs. intruder scenario.
Lillian Likes…The framing of the shot where Chance holds a gun on Browning, and there is a red tree lit up besides chance. Once again the color splashes in this film along with the framing really transform this film into something special.
Lillian Likes…The director’s choice to have the three, Chance, Browning, and Emma all lying on the ground after the confrontation and killing of Browning, giving the audience the impression that they were all dead.
Lillian Likes…The beautifully framed extreme long shot of Chance and Frank dragging Browning’s lifeless body through the snow into the trees. I found this to be quite a cinematic scene, and reminded me of some shots in “Fargo.”
Lillian Likes…The many twists in the film. After killing Browning, Chance approaches Frank who is captive in the basement, and Frank makes a deal with Chance to help him to elude the authorities by smuggling him through the checkpoints. But in exchange, Chance has to split the stolen money with him. As they trek through the woods to dispose of Browning’s body, Frank turns the tables and holds Chance up with his own gun, telling him he will take all of the money. However, Frank is perfectly check mated by Chance when we learn that Chance thought ahead and took the bullets out of the gun that Frank holds on him.
Lillian Likes…Deputy Gale's persistence in this manhunt, as she challenges Sheriff Cooper's complacency and apathy in fulfilling his duties as Sheriff before he retires.
Lillian Likes…The fact that Chance attempts to “buy” Emma’s freedom from her abusive and controlling husband for 10k. It really solidifies the feeling in the audience that Emma is almost being held captive by her own husband.
Lillian Likes…The choice of the writers to mislead the audience by getting us to believe that Emma is going to “show her true colors” and betray Chance to help her husband but instead kills her husband instead.
Lillian Likes…The characterization of Emma, who almost has an element of coldness on full display when the audience learns that Frank is still alive and, rather than just shoot him to put him out of his misery, she insists that he should be left outside to freeze to death.
Lillian Likes…The framing of the shot where Deputy Gale is going down the basement stairs in search of the truth and the use of the flickering lights to enhance the tension for the audience.
Lillian Likes…The dialogue in this film, especially the line from Chance: “I’m just a guy trying to do the right thing the wrong way."
Lillian Likes…The fact that the writers use another opportunity to mislead the audience when after Chance is shot, it almost looks as if Emma is the one who pulled the trigger. We then see Sheriff Cooper who has stepped out from the shadow of his looming retirement to finally be a part of the case.
Lillian Likes…How Emma pins part of the bank robbery on her husband, basically in an attempt to take the blame off of Chance, who was just “trying to the right thing the wrong way.” We get an indication of Emma’s intentions as she only gives the Sheriff a portion of the retrieved stolen money, keeping the rest for herself.
Lillian Likes…The conclusion of this film as Emma does right by Chance’s memory by anonymously dropping off money that she reserved for Chance's niece to help pay for her operations/treatments with a little card reading "For Hannah." This gesture, complete with the “For Hannah” really ties the whole film together like a beautifully wrapped present on Christmas.
Lillian Likes…The beautiful ending as Emma walks off alone into the snow covered woods, and the director’s choice to, rather than the traditional fade to black, instead fade to white, complimenting the white, snowy landscape of the entire film.
Lillian Likes… “For Hannah”
Written by Shannon Brown & John Wesley Norton
Directed and shot by John Wesley Norton
Edited by John Wesley Norton & James Riggs
Scored by DC McAuliffe
Starring: Shannon Brown, Carla Abruzzo, Ric Morgan, Suzette Brown, Bruce Spielbauer, Joe Caballero, Harold Dennis, Marla Seidell, Kayla Kelly, Katharine ‘Ladie K’ Mraz, Linda Terborg, Bob Farster, Abigail Melger, & Dave Andersen
AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING: