THE DUST FACTORY (2004, 102 minutes) was an oddly European-looking American film I waited some years to see. The preview suggested something indecipherable and was therefore useless. Also, as I recall it was only fairly recently shown on pay-per-view cable, making me think it was a newer film. When I finally saw it, tonight in fact, and saw how young Michael Angarano is here, well, I knew something funny was happening with my mental processing. Then I noticed the date. What gives with this sort of thing, this delayed release, anyway?
In fact this whole film is 'funny' and very difficult to review. It was somewhat intriguing for me on a purely metaphysical level. Yet the thing was so flat and disappointing I can't actually understand its raison d'Ítre as cinema. A sweet and compelling Ryan Kelley (Prayers for Bobby) plays Ryan Flynn, a teen who is mute because of witnessing the death of his father. His best friend - who seems to have no point or value whatsoever - is Michael Angarano.
After suffering a fall from a bridge into a river, Ryan is transported to "The Dust Factory", which struck me as a place where people go when they are just-about-dead but still have the power to decide if they'll die or return. In effect, the Factory may very well be where we all must go in order to gain the wisdom to know if life still needs us or not - in reality, I do not know what the heck goes on here. During his time in that place (slightly reminiscent of Beetlejuice), he is counseled by his grandfather (the usually stern and frightening Armin Mueller-Stahl).
So, in this happy limbo people come to the decision whether to pass on to heaven I presume, or return to earth. In any event, is there any doubt that Ryan will return and live? It was that question that also made me wonder why anyone would waste a minute on a film like this. Teens are facing problems and this film might - I say MIGHT - answer a few of those difficulties, but it is beyond me. A relief is the quality in the whole thing: the acting, the stars, the music, the gentleness of the great family films of decades long gone. However, that is not enough to justify a film.
Especially when the reviewer (yours truly) is still seething angry that there hasn't yet been a proper metaphysical romance film for gay teens. Probably never will be. That angers me, and so does Wallyweird's homophobia. The two boys in this film, in my opinion, should have been gay.
In the end I can only say this will either touch you in some way or it will leave you cold and unimpressed. Since I love Kelley and Angarano (I'm a lifelong fan of his meaning I took note of him when he was very small and haven't missed too many of his films since), this film absolutely mesmerized me on that level - but it was only because of that.