'Six Figures' a bleak domestic thriller

LIZ BRAUN - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:35 AM ET

PLOT: A slow, sad, downward spiral. Faintly Kafka-esque tale about a man accused of domestic violence and how it colours the way others perceive him.

Six Figures is a quiet film that nonetheless really knows how to tighten the psychological screws. The film addresses, among other things, anxiety, hasty judgments, and the ways in which fear can ignite seemingly unrelated emotional responses.

A fairly simple domestic story about money worries, Six Figures moves into complicated terrain involving abandonment issues, guilt and projection.

Warner (JR Bourne) can't shake the nagging feeling that he should be farther along in life than he is. He is 35, married, and the father of two children and he's worried because he and his wife can't quite afford to buy a house.

You know when you have one of those days when work is worrisome and the kids are crying and you're tired and fretful and worried about paying the bills? Warner's whole life is like that.

Warner's wife Claire (Caroline Cave) seems to be the glue holding the family together. Claire is loving toward Warner, great with her kids and kind to Warner's parents. She cheerfully ignores her own mother's sniping at Warner; her mom is sure that Warner will prove to be just as big a loser as Claire's own long-gone dad was.

While Warner founders at his job, Claire gets a raise at hers. Just when they finally find a house they want to buy, sort of, Warner's boss says something that indicates bad financial news may lie ahead.

Then, when something violent happens to Claire, people suspect that Warner's general frustration with life may be at the root of it. His own parents aren't sure that he's innocent. Everything collapses into a mess of suspicion and Warner becomes the target of other people's fears.

The slow creation of doubt is skillfully handled in Six Figures, and while the film is engaging, the subject matter is fairly depressing. Neither a thriller nor a whodunit, the story is character-driven, clever and creepy. Writer/director David Christensen maintains a balancing act throughout that is impressive; you'll have to make up your own mind about Warner and his actions. Much is ambiguous and nothing is fully resolved.

You won't like most of the characters, either.

BOTTOM LINE: Six Figures is the sort of movie people happily argue about afterward, but it's also the sort of movie that is an acquired taste. It's a fairly low-budget outing and the performances are uneven, so don't go expecting a Hollywood blockbuster. Just so we're clear.

(This film is rated 14-A)


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