The Evening Hour
reviewed by Eric Ellis
Director: Braden King
Writers: Elizabeth Palmore, Carter Sickels
Based upon The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels
Of the films I’ve seen this year, The Evening Hour (2020) stands out as an understated gem that regrettably slipped under the radar for many viewers. Its opening shots are breathtaking, showcasing the lush, mist-covered trees and mountains of Appalachia, portraying the allure that keeps many residents rooted despite the region’s deteriorating economy and deep-seated poverty.
The Evening Hour follows nurse’s aide Cole Freeman (Philip Ettinger) as he navigates life in a declining Appalachian town, overshadowed by an encroaching mining company. Cole’s compassion is evident in his work at an elderly care facility. To supplement his income, he purchases and resells surplus prescription pills from locals. His discreet operations manage to elude the local police and, due to a precarious agreement, avoid clashes with a more aggressive drug dealer named Everett (Marc Menchaca). This agreement remains intact as long as Cole doesn’t infringe on Everett’s turf.
Raised predominantly by his devout Baptist minister grandfather, Cole cherishes the profound connections to his homeland and community. This ingrained sense of responsibility drives him to support “his people” in any possible way.
However, Cole’s relative stability is shaken when Terry Rose (Cosmo Jarvis) reenters the scene. Childhood friends, Cole and Terry were once inseparable, but Terry’s ambitions led him away. Now back and unpredictable, Terry’s ambitions threaten to spark conflict with Everett.
The film poignantly traces Cole’s descent, symbolizing the tightening grip of his personal and environmental challenges. Philip Ettinger delivers a compelling portrayal of Cole, capturing the essence of a man deeply attuned to his surroundings and burdened by the plight of his people.
Supporting Ettinger is a stellar ensemble, including Lili Taylor, Kerry Bishe, Tess Harper, and Michael Trotter, all of whom deliver impeccable performances. The film does contain brief nudity and violent scenes, but they’re integral to the story, neither excessive nor gratuitous.
The Evening Hour is reminiscent of narratives like Winter’s Bone and adapts Carter Sickels’ novel of the same name. For those interested, The Evening Hour is accessible via streaming and complimentary on Kanopy.