After this year’s Sundance Film Festival, whenever anybody asked me which movies I’d liked best, I quickly answered. “The four Bs: Blind, Boyhood, The Babadook, and The Better Angels.” (My fifth choice is Listen Up, Philip, which would be so much cooler if it were called Blisten Up, Philip.) I worried though that The Better Angels might have a hard time getting picked up, since it’s less of an immediate crowd-pleaser than the other films. Produced by Terrence Malick, and directed by first-timer A.J. Edwards—who’s been an editor and assistant director on Malick’s projects for the past decade—The Better Angels is an impressionistic, decidedly Malick-like portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, using dreamy, elliptical black-and-white images to show what it was like for Lincoln to toil in the unforgiving Indiana hills for a stern father (played by Jason Clarke) who resented his son’s intelligence. It’s impossible not to compare Edwards’ film to Malick, and I worried that The Better Angels would be too easily dismissed as a knock-off, when it’s actually a beautiful and quietly engaging history-play, which reminded me of the young adult novels about frontier life that I read when I was a kid.
Anyway, it turns out I needn’t have fretted so much. The new company Amplify—a merger of Variance and GoDigital that was announced at Sundance—issued a press release yesterday saying that they’ll be distributing The Better Angels theatrically this fall, with home video and VOD releases to follow in 2015. The Better Angels joins Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem and Stuart Murdoch’s musical God Help The Girl (another one I liked a lot at Sundance) as Amplify’s first slate of releases. That’s an impressive starting three, and while Amplify doesn’t yet have a track record to show how well it can get its movies to people who want to see them, its hard to fault the taste of its acquisitions department.
For a brief taste of what you have to look forward to with The Better Angels, enjoy this 30-second teaser: