Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and Packie (Shea Whigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle and modern masculinity.
What We Thought:
I’m a born and raised New Englander. I come from a working class family that goes back generations. To say the characters in Small Engine Repair are relatable is an understatement. That’s why I loved the film. I’ve met these people. I know these people. They are my people.
Frankie (played by the film’s writer/director John Pollono) wants his daughter to succeed. He knows his life hasn’t exactly gone the way he expected, but when he finds out his daughter Crystal got into college, it’s time to celebrate. His lifelong friends Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and Packie (Shea Whigham) are just as happy for Crystal as Frankie is. Everyone has done their part in raising Crystal because her mom, well to be nice, she’s a trainwreck. The first half of the film is getting to know these three guys, Crystal and their lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Then there’s a bar fight and the friends realize that maybe they aren’t that good for each other. But Frankie decides he needs help from his boys to take care of a situation. If you’ve seen the trailer you might guess the film takes a hard left and boy does it. I expected it to go dark based on the trailer, but even I was pretty shocked at how dark it got. I certainly didn’t see the exact reason for it coming. I had a couple of ideas of why it would shift in tone, but this one will really get you. It’s a timely topic, but it doesn’t feel preachy or forced. In fact I’d say it’s 100% understandable given the situation and the type of people these men are. I fully understand why it goes this way and agree with them. Maybe these type of men and their actions might shock some viewers, but I’m guessing I’ve lived a different life than others.
Small Engine Repair is a character and story driven film that hit me just right. Pollono, Bernthal, and Whigham are brilliant together. They all have their own individual personalities, but you see why they are friends and why they love each other. You will love to hate Jordana Spiro’s character at first and Ciara Bravo is very good as the daughter. It’s in my top 5 films of 2021 so far and John Pollono has made one of the first New Hampshire defining films.
Distributed By: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Written & Directed By: John Pollono
Produced By: Rick Rosenthal, Peter Abrams, Jon Bernthal, Noah Rothman
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House
Runtime: 103 mins
Genre: Drama, Comedy