‘Atrabilious’ is an indie mystery film that takes place in a gritty New York City, a fitting setting for the noir and off-the-wall quirkiness of the story. The film follows Steven Joyner, a man in a state of mourning for his son who seeks answers in a drinking establishment, mysterious characters potentially life-altering cocktails.
The film is written and directed by 19-year-old William Atticus Parker. It would interest you to know that he made this film whilst still 18.
In the film, Steven is distraught after the death of his son Neil. But he is not convinced about what happened so he embarks on a mission to investigate and find the answers that he might not be ready for. Through a referral, his quest leads him to the shady and cryptic bar Atrabilious which is known for serving guests a special brew; a cocktail that makes you forget your sorrows. Steven gets more convinced that something is wrong and enlists the help of some friends to get to the bottom of his investigation. He crosses paths with Eduard who has a sinister secret that he would do anything to keep hidden.
The film features an impressive cast list of some very big names including Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Baldwin, Mark Boone Junior and Jeffrey Wright. For an indie film from a relatively young and unknown director, these talents bring to bear very memorable performances that add to the film’s worth. In every scene, it is clear that these talents took the characters they were assigned very seriously and committed their all to make sure that Parker’s vision was executed well enough.
Alec Baldwin for instance makes a very brief appearance in the film but it was memorable enough and contributed to the story’s progression. Whoopi Goldberg however has a more extensive role in the film as a therapist and she nails it. Andrea, which is the character she plays is still relevant by the time the film reaches its climax.
Mark Boone Junior plays the role of Eduard with so much dedication. He is the villain in the film and rightfully so, he makes you despise him with every scene. He is vicious and brings some intensity to the film that adds to its unique tone of being a horror/thriller.
Leon Addison Brown gives us a nuanced performance as Steven Joyner. Delivering exceptionally well as a desperate broken man looking for all the answers he can find at any cost. When he is broken, you can see it as much as feel it and it is the same when he is focused on finding the answers that he is looking for.
“Atrabilious” does great at keeping the audience attentive and guessing. The story is not one that you can describe as easily predictable but it is quite easy to follow and understand. Even with its somewhat dark and gritty feel, there is some witty dark humour in the dialogue that is sure to make you crack a smile at least. It does feel like a unique blend of genres, with traces of horror, thrilling and comedic themes. But none feels watered down by the other.
The biggest shortfall of this film is that it might be a bit too confusing for many to understand. The film serves some cryptic mysteries that it doesn’t fully explain or explore. Some of the characters and their backstories are also left unexplained and it sure to leave some viewers unsatisfied and confused. Add that to its rough edges as an indie film, and the entire production feels so much more like a daring experiment that didn’t crash and burn.
I would rate this film 7/10 for its uniqueness fusing a simple crime story with unimaginable elements that makes it a satisfying cocktail as what its characters are served in its plot.
“Atrabilious” simply might not appeal to everyone. It is unique and quirky in several ways. It would also be hard for many to overlook the fact that this was made by a fairly young writer/ director who is yet to cement his name in the indie filmmaking scene.
Overall, “Atrabilious” is an entertaining and original film that showcases the talents of its young director. It is undeniable that he shows great promise with this film and I can only imagine what more he has to share as he continues to find and hone in on his style of storytelling.