Stars: Miles Doleac, William Sadler, Colin Cunningham, John Cullum, Leticia Jimenez, Glynnis O’Connor, Michael Emery, Mike Mayhall, Scotty Whitehurst, David Simpson, Tamarah Murley, Jillian Taylor, Kristin Samuelson, Lindsay Anne Williams | Written and Directed by Miles Doleac
A troubled, young history professor tries to escape his past by taking a job at a new university, where he struggles with an entrenched and equally-troubled department chair, rampant student apathy, and new relationships that complicate and challenge his world-view.
The Historian is a film that took me a long time to get into. It knows that it is a drama film, and so piles on extra drama. The main problem I found was that it wanted you to feel sorry for its characters and it did this by showing you scene after scene of reasons why you should feel sorry for them. The result is a bunch of characters that are more like caricatures (aka incredibly over the top). The grumpy professor is super grumpy, the incredibly perky grad student is so so so happy about everything!, the tortured historian is… etc etc. Unfortunately, the film forgets to make them likeable along the way.
Every scene which ISN’T trying to make you feel sorry for the characters, is a scene where they are arguing with each other. After a while it begins to get a bit… frustrating to watch. Character development seems to be focussed trying to point out how unhappy the characters are and it draws out the film a lot longer than I personally feel it should have been.
There are a few scenes which break up the frustration, where the main character, Ben Rhodes (Miles Doleac), is teaching history which I found to be particularly interesting, although I am a bit of a history nerd. About half way through, everything seems to get better and a few of the characters find their sense of purpose. It is during this time we catch a glimpse into these characters as balanced, interesting people as they help each other out to solve their problems. At this point, I actually found myself settling into the film and starting to enjoy it. Unfortunately, like the earlier history scenes, this is short lived, and The Historian plummets back into that repetitive ‘feel sorry for the characters, followed by argument’ cycle from the start of the film.
By the end, The Historian feels dragged out and a bit too much. It’s a long film too, pushing over two hours. There are some glimmers of a good film in there, but they are hidden under a lot of unneeded drama.