ATMB makes Screen Comments BEST OF 2019 LIST
“A Thousand Miles Behind”
I caught this amazing little narrative film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February, and it still haunts me. Made for a modest few thousand dollars, writer/director Nathan Wetherington, an actor who appeared in Season 3 of “True Detective” this year, has fashioned one of the most affecting films ever made about grief. “A Thousand Miles Behind” stars Jeffrey Doornbos (“Arrested Development”) as Preston, a man whose wife and daughter are suddenly, cruelly, killed in a car accident. He retreats into mourning, sleeps on his lawn and grows an immense depression beard. But then a Ducati shows up in his driveway from an anonymous well-wisher, and Preston hits the roads of California on a ride to find…whatever he can.
Wetherington, through clever use of drone technology and crafty editing, makes this uber-small film look like a million-dollar movie, but one thing you simply can’t fake is its heart. Doornbos is incredible, giving us so much with so little, and it’s a master class in acting. He is certainly helped by the amazing vistas of the Golden State’s highways and byways, which Preston and his motorcycle cruise in his journey through grief.
Wetherington told me at the last Santa Barbara Film Festival (SBIFF) that he wasn’t “trying to answer any questions for anybody,” and banked on the audience’s intelligence and familiarity with the road genre to bring to the table their own experiences and souls. We have all known grief, and thus we can empathize with Preston.
I first saw “A Thousand Miles Behind” eleven months ago, and I cannot forget it. It follows me whenever I smile at my wife-to-be, thinking of what I would do if I ever lost her to tragedy.
By marrying the all-American road genre with a poignant, adult study in grief, Nathan Wetherington has crafted a thoroughly precious film. I see hundreds of films every year, and if I’m lucky, one or two stay with me—but not one every few years burrows into my soul the way “A Thousand Miles Behind” has. Wetherington’s film has since won many accolades on the film festival circuit, and I risk hyperbole by saying it is one of the young century’s greatest movies. It is simple yet profound, small yet grand.
This what “small” filmmaking can and should be. What we seek out at the festivals amidst self-important movies of all stripes and in between ginormous comic book spectacles. May Wetherington and his little film continue to get the recognition they so much deserve.