American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There has been a mini-wave of movies about homelessness at year’s end, probably for the same reason that real estate woes and foreclosures (“Love Is Strange,” “99 Homes,” “5 Flights Up,” “My Old Lady”) have been showing up with some regularity. The shrinking middle class and the increasing diminishment of the American dream can make for compelling drama if handled right.
What was once a source of humor in the greed-is-good ‘80s in such popular comedies as “Trading Places” and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” is not much of a laughing matter at the moment. But such roles do offer actors a chance to dig a bit deeper into their thespian souls, as is the case with Richard Gere dispensing with his matinee-idol gloss in “Time Out of Mind” and Maggie Smith ditching her Dowager Countess routine in the upcoming London-located “The Lady in the Van.”
As they say in what is left of journalism, three is a trend. And No. 3 just happens to be British actor Paul Bettany’s directing-and-screenwriting debut, “Shelter,” an admirable attempt at presenting a difficult subject that suffers from an eventual pileup of melodramatic happenstances.
At least the first-time helmsman is blessed with two highly skilled and incredibly watchable actors as his leads. Anthony Mackie is Nigerian immigrant Tahir, adrift after his visa has run out, while Jennifer Connelly (who happens to be Bettany’s wife) is heroin addict Hannah, at her wit’s end and ready to call it a day as she ponders jumping off a train-yard overpass.