The mood of loss and regret is palpable in this gritty indie drama about how neglected 15 year old Shaw Templeton (Nolan Lyons) struggles to cope in the days following his mother’s death.
Director Nick Frangione, working from a script by David Hauslein, creates a believable dead-end atmosphere in rural Pennsylvania (there are shots of Amish in the community) where Shaw lives with his mother (Amy Hargreaves) who has just died at home. A wig on the dresser and her relative youth is all we need to know about the cause; particularly affecting are flashbacks of Shaw as he helps his mother into the bathroom — he appears to be her sole caretaker — and his shock and denial when he finds her dead.
Reeling, the young man lashes out at a stranger and ends up at the police station where his estranged father, William (James Le Gros), shows up to claim him. William takes Shaw to his dilapidated cabin in the woods, a depressing place full of hunting rifles, porn magazines and a filthy cot that he orders his son to sleep on.
Le Gros does what he can with the unlikeable William who spends his time drinking and hunting deer with his pal John (Kevin J. O’Connor) and who doesn’t seem to even want to understand his son’s loss. The film doesn’t provide much backstory to why the parents split up but William’s demeanor and squalid lifestyle speaks for itself. Like this year’s “Honey Boy,” which also portrayed an abusive father with few redeeming qualities, “Buck Run” offers a realistic look at Shaw’s bleak options once he’s holed up with his dad. Home-video flashbacks of Shaw and William hunting together add an impressionistic look but it’s not clear what the memories represent for Shaw.
There isn’t one adult — not the local cop, not the funeral home director who is completely clueless how to deal with grief — that can offer any solace to the boy. When he does finally ask for his father’s help in dealing with a local bully, William responds carelessly. But “Buck Run” has affecting moments, helped by David Barker’s editing and Anna Franquesa Solano’s atmospheric cinematography. The early teen years are tough; this film creates a touching portrait of a young man we root for to survive his grim circumstances.