Fantasia first look: Indiana

Two spirit doctors go about their business in excellent indie drama Indiana

We’re so used to seeing ghost hunters and paranormal investigators arrive as the show-boating last resort in genre films, but the two “spirit doctors” of Toni Comas’ Indiana are something very different. Clad in a tracksuit and softly spoken, Michael (Gabe Fazio) is a sensitive fellow who does actually seem to have the gifts he claims to but has decided to call it quites. His partner Josh (Bradford West) is the mouth of the pair, flashier and with less convincing abilities. He’s also doing his best to convince Michael to keep their good thing going.

The film follows the duo they go about their business. They go on a radio show where they’re forced to defend their work against sceptics. They pick up Josh’s son, who accompanies them for the rest of the film. They eat dinner, they bicker, they drive. Meanwhile, an old man sets off on a sinister journey that sets him on a path towards our heroes.

Comas and Charlie Williams’ script avoids big moments. Tempers flare but are quickly subdued, potential supernatural moments are dealt with quietly, if at all, and revelations, when they come, are affecting rather than astonishing. It takes a great deal of confidence to make a film in this genre that is so content to simply observe everyday human behaviour for so much of its running time, and Indiana succeeds in drawing us in. This is in large part due to the performances (Fazio’s terse but kind turn is particularly good), and the glimpses of that we’re allowed of Michael and Josh’s lives prior to the film’s beginning.

Their “spirit doctors” brand name is the sign that this duo is benign (backed up by the fact that Michael is met by well-wishers and grateful former clients wherever he goes), but it also hints at the film’s larger themes, and as we begin to see how their story will collide with the mysterious stranger’s, a real sense of empathy emerges. It’s undeniably slow moving but it is engaging, well-performed, well-shot (by Anna Franquesa Solano) and it is decidedly moving. This is one that deserves to find an audience beyond the festival circuit.

Indiana was seen and reviewed at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Visit the website for more information.