New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Working Man

Here’s a timely portrait of a man who just wants to keep working which is certainly relevant in this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic. First time Director Robert Jury took 10 years to write a film with grit and compassion about a man struggling with his identity at the end of his job.

Allery (Paul Gerety – Ray Donovan, Sneaky Pete) has worked for 30 plus years in a Rust Belt factory that’s closing, and he just won’t face it. He is a stoic and dedicated employee who isn’t ready to stop. His wife, Iola, (Talia Shire – Rocky, The Godfather) is concerned, even though they’ve been growing apart. 

Most of their communication is unsaid, not just because they’ve been together a long time. Nor is it just about losing his job. She tries, but he’s unresponsive.The scene where they go finally confront each other about his refusing to quit and to deal with a past family tragedy is poignant and emotional. Shire is stern but vulnerable. Jury credits Shire with making that scene work. 

The director does a good job showing Allery in daily rituals, getting up at the same time, dressing in his work shirt, eating breakfast and packing the same liverwurst sandwich before taking his belabored walk to the factory. Gerety makes you really feel for Allery. His face and body language just scream sadness and defeat, except when he’s working. Having that job has always been his touchstone. Allery spends his days working a plastics stamping machine making little pieces that will help make something else. We never see a finished product, but Allery, takes pride in the little pieces he makes. 

Cinematographer Piero Basso captures the stark, bluish florescent tone of the factory and the gloomy sepia tones inside Allery and Iola’s home. Interesting side bar, Editor Richard Halsey won an Oscar for editing Rocky working on the same film as Shire, uses a steady hand. The pacing of this film is effectively slow and sure. 

Rumors fly between his co-workers. The old boss is trying to introduce the prospective new boss in a positive manner. But you can feel the underlying tension. They’re already working a shortened day, expecting a pink slip along with a last paycheck. In a scene being played out for real across the manufacturing sector, a young guy from “corporate” shows up and shuts down the factory.

Nobody seems to be paying much attention to Allery. They all seem to be writing him off, except one recently hired worker and neighbor, Walter, (Billy Brown – How to Get Away with Murder). When he sees Allery continue pacing down the street toward the factory, he takes pity on the poor man, showing up with the keys he still had to the factory. He knows what Allery wants. He just wants to get back to work. It’s pathetic, a little amusing, but most of all, shows compassion for the old man who isn’t ready to give in or give up. 

Inspired by Allery, the other workers catch on. All of a sudden, they gather wanting to know what’s going on. Walter steps up to organize with the other workers pulling Allery in. They decide, with or without the bosses, they’re going to complete pending orders and finish their job. Walter becomes a rallying point and hero. But that’s not the end of it. 

In a case of life imitating art, unbeknownst to Director Jury, the real working factory just outside of Chicago used as a set, was shut down after filming. And those workers who were extras and taught Gerety and the rest of the cast how to use the machinery, found themselves out of work! 

Jury gives a compassionate treatment to the situation that makes this film even more important. Because of the pandemic, it will not be in theaters, but more viewers may see it streaming on demand. This film comes at a sensitive time when so many are out of work, losing jobs and the future is uncertain. Like Allery and his co-workers, we’re all wondering, what comes next? 

Brainstorm Media          1 hour 49 minutes      Not Rated     VOD

from Movies and Shakers

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