July 18, 2019

SCREEN | Marc Maron Wields the 'Sword of Trust'

Marc Maron Michaela Watkins Jillian Bell Jon Bass Lynn Shelton | Sword of Trust

Talented Seattle-based indie filmmaker Lynn Shelton returns to her always endearing, signature method of loose, semi-improvisational storytelling for her latest slice of life comedy, Sword of Trust. Starring her frequent collaborator and muse, surly comedian turned podcaster/interviewer Marc Maron, the film invests fully in its cast for a charming, shaggy-dog misadventure.

Set in Birmingham and filmed with only a basic outline co-written by SNL alum Mike O'Brien, every scene and its dialogue is heavily improvised explaining any extra naturalistic feel. Maron, Michaela Watkins, Jillian Bell, and Jon Bass play a pawn shop owner and his co-conspirators who embark on an amusing, small-scale journey to sell an inherited historical Civil War sword that some questionable characters believe may prove a secret alternate American history where the South was actually victorious (conspiracy theories aplenty).

What follows from the bare but very enjoyable plot is a series of sequences where the foursome riff with a few other fun character actors about the absurdities of their simple mission, what each wants from life, and how they ended up where they are. While parts may wander, the film never feels aimless despite the purposeful lack of structure.

Maron, in particular, is just so great as a thinly veiled, mostly non-comedic (still very cranky) mirror version of himself. He has an out of nowhere monologue in the back of a truck about his life's story and how he ended up running a pawn shop in Alabama that's absolutely stunning in execution made all the more touching by the fact that any part of it was made up on the spot.

Shelton makes the relevant, topical political undertones quite sharp without ever coming off as liberal mocking. The Southern flavour is light in acknowledging historical grievances of the past yet Sword of Trust always keeps the ambling comedy of its premise at the forefront. Her low-key sense of filmmaking never fails to bring out the humanity and empathy of the characters.

Sword of Trust is available to stream on iTunes and through video on demand.

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