Director: Roberto Machoian| Script: Roberto Machoian | Cast:: Clayne Crawford (Joseph Chambers/Joe), Jordana Brewster (Tess), Michael Raymond-James (‘Lone Wolf’), ea | Time to play: 96 minutes | Year: 2022
Alone, Joseph Chambers wanders through the woods with his shotgun. His mission is unclear, and yet he has left behind his determined wife and children. What goes through the head of this headstrong family man? This tense character study, which gradually turns into a moral story, is most compelling in the paranoid opening phase.
Joseph’s nervous journey seems extra surreal because the drama doesn’t start in the woods. Just wait a week until your seasoned friend can come over, he pleads with his partner Tess (Jordana Brewster, taking a break from Fast and Furiousmovies) for him, but all to no avail.
When Joseph leaves his cabin, he leaves a safe and loving environment, and no one quite knows why. Does he want to avoid the end of time, to prove himself as a man? Once in the forest, the eerie sound design reflects his unstable state of mind. In the long run, it even seems that nature begins to speak to him.
Already The murder of two lovers (launched in corona time via Picl) is The Integrity of Joseph Chambers the second film by Robert Machoian to be screened in the Netherlands. Both character studies are equally psychological thrillers due to the oppressive directing and intense acting. Clayne Crawford, known for the acclaimed prison drama Rectify (four seasons), with Joseph Chambers he once again plays a man mentally on the brink of exploding.
The Integrity of Joseph Chambers it’s a morality story, so I might put the title in critical quotes. Joseph’s derailed behavior will sooner or later lead to tragedy, that much is made clear earlier, but it’s still a shame that the deliberate plot twist is ostentatiously announced halfway through the film.
While Joseph’s ‘hunt’ is looking more and more like running away, the question arises under what circumstances someone can be held accountable for their behaviour. Machoian’s hints at a broader social crisis are subtle, but hard to ignore. Seen in that light The Integrity of Joseph Chambers a state where alpha Americans can no longer see the forest for the trees of the (somewhere still current) Trump era.
The choice of such a moral story is tempting, but not without risk. If a director judges his character too myopic, the audience no longer needs to be involved. Joseph’s disturbed mental state is retroactively reduced to a personal issue, without us having to wonder what’s going on more broadly. Fortunately, Machoian keeps his balance on this, and after a lackluster middle part, he counters with an entertaining final act. His attitude towards people and society is ultimately primarily a stimulus to reflect on the integrity of Joseph Chambers.