Independent films are often tossed by the wayside and never see the light of day in movie theaters. With the advent of mass cable and streaming TV production, low-budget projects get shoved under the rug even more. While they may be done on the cheap, some turn out to be outstanding, moving, and timely. The latter is true of In the Orchard. It’s a feature film directed by Christopher Knoblock and stars Dana White, who also produced and wrote the screenplay.
White plays Charlotte, whose husband and 8-year old son are killed in a car crash while the family is on their way to a picnic. She recovers but has to cope with the immense shock of losing both of them. She also has to deal with running her large orchard by herself. Her sister offers to have her stay at her home in New York to recover but Charlotte insists she’ll be fine at home.
Her isolation fuels her depression to the point that it becomes overwhelming. During a night of fitful sleep, she takes out her gun, walks out into the yard and holds it to her forehead. She is just about to shoot when she is surprised by a homeless man (Nick) sleeping near her shed. She confronts the man but seeing she is distraught, he convinces her to put the gun down. Frightened, Charlotte runs into the house and locks the door.
The next morning, she wakes to see Nick still sleeping in the yard. She hesitantly offers him a cup of coffee and he gratefully accepts. Still scared but empathetic, she brings him breakfast and notices that his side is badly bruised. Out of concern, she offers to take him to a doctor and he asks if there is a VA nearby. She learns that he is a former Marine and a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Charlotte drops him off at the VA but as he is getting ready to leave he sees her waiting for him in the car. She asks if he’d like to stay at her farm until her family comes back from a camping trip, not letting on that her husband and son are dead.
Nick soon learns the truth after rummaging through a drawer and eventually opens up to Charlotte that he has a wife and children of his own. His wife threw him out after bouts of his PTSD got him into fights and several stints in jail.
Their relationship slowly grows and Nick begins sleeping in Charlotte’s bed. They both find comfort in each other even though their wounds are deep, and both are fragile.
Charlotte’s neighbor Paul, (Jack McGee) who is the executor of her estate, becomes concerned that Nick has ingratiated himself too soon after her husband’s death. He threatens him behind Charlotte’s back causing Nick to become so angry he almost chokes him. Charlotte asks Paul to leave but afterward, Nick becomes paranoid, thinking the two of them are being spied on.
I was impressed by the quality of the acting overall. The film addresses the subtle nuances of a woman losing her family and the trauma of a soldier who comes home after experiencing the horrors of war.
Dana White thoroughly captures the excruciating pain of a mother who has lost her entire world and who must go on with life afterward. Jonas Ball intensely portrays the dark and troubled ex-Marine, who struggles to come to terms with the traumas of war and the heart-wrenching dissolution of his family.
Christopher Knoblock directs the film and also does a quick turn as Charlotte’s husband before he is killed. He is Dana White’s husband in real life. The film has been in competition at numerous film festivals and is the Winner of the Jury Award for Best US Feature in the 2018 Sonoma International Film Festival.
View the “In the Orchard” trailer
In the Orchard is currently being screened at film festivals and private screenings. The creative team is seeking screening venues including Veterans organizations.