Beneath Contempt

Beneath Contempt

Directed by: Benjamin Brewer
101 minutes

East Coast Premiere

Most of us are lucky enough only to hear about fatal drunk-driving accidents on the news. In his debut feature, writer/director Benjamin Brewer considers the long-term consequences of one such tragedy for those it directly affects: the family of one of its three teenaged victims, and its lone survivor—the intoxicated driver, Sean (Colin Janson).

Imprisoned for four years following the accident, Sean is granted an early parole. Emotionally numb and overtly aware of what feels like the entire world’s scrutiny, he returns to his hometown to work for his uncle’s cable-installation business. Meanwhile, Juna Barnes (Sarah Newhouse), mother of one of the accident’s victims, remains wracked with depression and sorrow to the degree that her older son Matt (Mike Bash) must look after his younger sister Jaime (Abby Austin). Having pleaded with the parole board not to release Sean early, Matt manifests his grief as pent-up frustration and anger. A confrontation between the two sides is inevitable—but its outcome elicits a surprising reaction from one of the participants.

Filmed in Massachusetts along the Merrimack River Valley, BENEATH CONTEMPT examines with nuance and fairness how a tragedy severely alters a community. Brewer does not ask us to cast our sympathy entirely with Sean or the Barnes family, but rather to think about what it means to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and whether it’s possible to forgive the unforgivable.

—Chris Kriofske