Filmmaker Connor Rickman, who had plenty of short films under his belt, had trouble funding a feature.
Instead of waiting around, he gathered $15,000 to self-fund The Whole Lot, a surprisingly rich drama featuring three characters, a barn, and a lot of classic cars.
As you begin watching The Whole Lot, you'll get a sense of the film's direction that soon begins to falter as Rickman upends any expectations you had for something much deeper.
With a screenplay written by Matthew Ivan Bennett, Rickman takes three characters on a thrilling journey after two of them suffer the loss of their father.
Sarah McLoney stars as Della, who, after the loss of their father, asks her estranged brother, Jamie (Aaron Kramer), to meet at their father's property so that she can execute her father's wishes.
Jamie avoided Della and their father's family and friends in the wake of their father's death. For ten days, Della carried out her obligation to family and friends before disclosing to Jamie that his father's will specifically requested that he have just enough of their father's estate to get a leg up.
We never know what exactly made Jamie the black sheep of the family, but the damage he's done carries over to Della's marriage, as her husband Eli (Blake Webb) suffered a crushed hand during a past altercation.
Della's father's place of worship, as I call it, was a barn filled with his painstakingly restored cars, many of which Jamie helped him to restore.
When Della offers Jamie one car with an explanation of her father's wishes, old wounds and memories threaten their hope for a quick in and out before Eli sells the whole lot to an investor to fund his ideas for a business.
Filming in one location can sometimes be dreary, but setting it amongst the shine of beautifully restored cars provides a unique location for the ugliness simmering below the film's surface.
Cinematographers Roman Alavi and Denver James Howard make good use of Utah's blustery landscape and the treasure housed inside the barn, so The Whole Lot is visually dazzling.
The three actors run the gamut of emotions as Eli and Jamie battle for Della's love, each hoping that their relationship will yield their desired results. Della wavers as they vie for her attention, as you'd expect under the circumstances.
Grief has been weighing on them all, and Della has carried the brunt of the previous ten days on her shoulders. She's burnt out and wants to put it all behind her and move on. The two men she loves the most push her to the edge, leading Della to an unexpected denouement.
While Eli and Jamie create what appears to be ceaseless friction, Della reasserts herself to the surprise of them both. Della has all the cards stacked in her favor, and once she pushes through the noise they're making, she finds a new, hard-earned self-assurance.
The Whole Lot is a refreshing take on the family drama genre. The ambitious story lives well beyond its budget under Rickman's direction and promises that his days of self-funding may be over.
The Whole Lot is currently on the festival circuit.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.