Note: I wrote this in 2019 but never got around to posting it.
One night several weeks ago, after giving up on finding something on Netflix to watch, I stumbled on Jamin Winans’ The Frame on Amazon Prime. Most of you have probably never heard of this movie or its writer/director - he’s made very few movies, and they’re all very low budget. I’d seen his prior film, Ink (2009), after randomly coming across a Reddit AMA by Winans promoting it. I honestly don’t remember much about it, but I liked the feel and its and attempts at being poignant and emotionally intense. I’d also seen the poorly made trailer for The Frame before, and mentally filed it as a maybe. But for some reason when I saw his new movie on Amazon, I figured it was worth watching.
The Frame is really more of an abstract artistic film than a traditional movie, which will probably turn off most people. Winans’ style is reminiscent of Shane Carruth’s Primer and Upstream Color or some of Darren Aronofsky’s movies like Pi and The Fountain. The fact that I know these movies and directors off the top of my head might tell you that I have a propensity to watch non-traditional movies like these. So I’m probably a little biased towards enjoying these kinds of movies.
The Frame is about two characters who have nothing to do with each other at first. One is an EMT and the other is involved with organized crime. Their lives become intertwined when they discover that they can communicate with each other through their televisions, and later in other ways. The film shows a lot of background on the main characters’ lives, but most of it ends up being irrelevant to the main plot. Spending all this time getting to know the characters does increase the seeming impact of the events of the story, but it seems to serve more as emotional manipulation than actually adding to the plot.
The most important thing you should know about The Frame is that it’s very low budget, and it shows. While the cinematography and sound is definitely professional, all the other aspects leave something to be desired. The acting borders on amateur, but it’s compelling enough. The film makes use of a lot fade outs, which is a little distracting and breaks some of the immersion. The writing is powerful at times, but there area lot of unnecessary and overly lengthy scenes. It seems like there’s enough material for a good short, but not for a feature length film, and certainly not enough to justify its 126 minute runtime. There are very few movies that can make good use of that amount of time, and this not one of them.
Most of the interesting things happen towards the end of the movie, so it’s hard to describe the plot of the movie in a compelling way without giving away big parts of the story. It’s really a story about connections, free will, and questioning the nature of reality. It could be classified as sci-fi or fantasy as the mechanism that brings the two main characters together isn’t fully explained. However, there are some religious overtones that would push it towards fantasy.
Overall, this movie is whatever you make of it. If you’re patient enough to sit through the slow progression of the story, and forgiving enough to ignore the low budget feeling, you will probably be able to appreciate aspects of the story. If you can see it more as an artistic film than a movie, then it’s worth watching. But if you want something that’s polished with a solid plot, it’s probably not for you. I liked certain parts, but the main concept and good scenes don’t justify a feature-length film.