Year That Trembled (The)
This film returns us to an era when college students had more to think about than wet T-shirt contests, and faced harder choices than cell-phone service. The viewer can barely believe the America in "The Year That Trembled" is today's America. An impressive ensemble reminds us that you never know who will be cast in a Craven movie. Taking place shortly after Kent State in 1970, the story begins as several friends, most just out of high school, react to the shootings. A would-be writer (Brandis) has as his girlfriend Kiera Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie. Sean Nelson is a new Buddhist and die-hard Hendrix fan, and Charlie Finn, the resident pot-head.
Marin Hinkle, a high school teacher, is starting a family with husband Jonathan Woodward, and taking heat from the school board for her antiwar sentiments. Her husband's a paralegal in awe of the late Bobby Kennedy, and has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the young people shot at Kent State. Henry Gibson plays an influential attorney who takes him under his wing.
They all also live in the shadow of the draft lottery. What should have been an idyllic Ohio summer instead becomes one of increasing confusion, hardship, and paranoia. The young men, facing the reality that their numbers could be called any time, debate the options: giving in and going to Vietnam, dodging the draft by moving to Canada, hiding in the underground, or going to prison. Meredith Monroe plays a protester running from the FBI who returns to town to hide. Her father (Fred Willard) is a school official, with Martin Mull as a disillusioned bureau veteran close on the young woman's tracks. The movie's most emotionally complex scenes are of the two of them, and will make the audience think, feel, and laugh.
The same can be said for the entire film that effectively evokes the turbulence of its times; character studies and archival footage alike remind us that ours is a country that was at war with itself not long ago.
Craven added an intriguing bit from his research that the FBI sent men undercover onto campuses as agents provocateurs who stirred up unrest that the authorities could use as an excuse for cracking down. Jay R. Ferguson gives a chilling performance as such a G-man. "The Year That Trembled" is the first time Craven has been the director, and the first film of his in which the credits don't list him as producer.
Jay Craven (novel by Scott Lax)
Jonathan Brandis, Marin Hinkle, Fred Willard, Martin Mull, Kiera Chaplin, Jim Morton
Kent State shootings, 1970, campus demonstrations
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