Austin Film Festival Review: Addict Named Hal
Austin-made addiction drama doesn't gloss over its pain
By Jenny Nulf,
10:10AM, Mon. Oct. 25, 2021
Lane Michael Stanley’s feature debut Addict Named Hal is a solemn one. Set in an addiction recovery house, the Austin-made film follows a young woman, Amy (Natalie L’Amoreaux), believes that, since she’s 21, her reliance on alcohol is a natural one, unaware that the grief of her passing father fuels her ongoing substance abuse.
L’Amoreaux is a perfect vessel for the film’s lead: she looks like a young Winona Ryder, doe-eyed with an outcast edge, a terrific discovery whose performance carries Addict Named Hal through its toughest moments.
The halfway house is filled with unique characters, managed by Rich (Donato De Luca), a hard-rock dad whose compassion for his recovery family is masked by his punchy one-liners and his chagrin posture. Stanley spends a lot of time with these characters before Amy enters the picture, clearly defining the experiences of each supporting personality.
Amy’s naïve youth rustles the recovery house, immediately catching the eye of Hal (Ray A. Roberts II), a recently incarcerated heroin addict whose outgoing charm is a magnet for Amy. Roberts’s chemistry with L’Amoreaux is sweet, a silver lining in a situation that’s hell, but it’s also a ticking time bomb, a toxic attraction that’s laced with looming tragedy. Amy’s dismissiveness towards her own addition makes Hal more susceptible to fuzzy decisions that pull him away from his journey towards getting clean.
Some of the jarring moments in Addict Named Hal are fundamental. Strange tonal shifts and peculiar music queues give the film an uneven floor to stand on. A character enjoying alone time at home in the kitchen is oddly cross-cut with a somber Addicts Anonymous meeting, montages are edited a hair too slow, and Amy and Hal’s bumpy relationship development give Stanley’s first feature a rough around-the-edges feel.
However, Stanley’s ability to bring out compelling performances with their leads makes Addict Named Hal alluring. There’s no polish to the film, but there’s also no polish when it comes to addiction recovery. It’s a harrowing struggle, and Stanley’s empathy for each of their characters is genuine and endearing, offering up a bittersweet journey that’s anchored in raw emotion.
Addict Named HalAustin Premiere
Mon., Oct. 25, 9:45pm, Galaxy Highland
Austin Film Festival, Oct. 21-28. Find all our news, reviews, and interviews at austinchronicle.com/austin-film-festival.