After watching Martin McDonagh’s masterful The Banshees of Inisherin, I concluded that men would do all the things in the world to process things, except maybe taking their ass off to therapy. So, I was pleasantly surprised when William Atticus Parker’s sophomore film ‘Atrabilious’ opens with his leading man Steven (Leon Addison Brown), sitting across from his therapist Andrea Hart (Whoopi Goldberg), talking about the loss of his son.

He is leading his life from one moment to the other, but the grief of losing his young son has started taking a toll on him. That is until he meets a mysterious man named Vincent (Jeffrey Wright). Vincent talks to him about a better way to process what he is going through and proceeds to hand him an envelope with a barcode that leads him to the titular underground bar named ‘Atrabilious.’ Hints of oddness trigger Steven, who realizes that not everything is right with the place, which is co-run by Dr. Raphael Clearwater (Evan Jonigkeit) and Dr. Eduard Gillespie (Mark Boone Junior).

He reaches out to his closest friends, Todd (Brooks Ashmanskas) and Mark (Joel De La Fuente), who try to help him find more things about the bar that claims to heal people suffering from grief by the methods of offering therapeutic drinks made by cocktail bereavement coordinators. Upon further plodding into the center of the mystery, Steven is left with the realization that his now-dead son used to work in the bar with his boyfriend, and his death might be some sort of coverup for something bigger.

Now, director Parker has deliberately chosen to use an uneven structure to tell his tale so that its neo-noir elements really come to the surface. For a major part of the first act, you will be sitting there scratching your head in frustration. That is until the comparatively well-done second act kicks in, and the co-joined ends of grief, i.e., guilt and revenge, come to the surface. There are some interesting twist and turns here and there, but the third act kind of fall in over its head and leads the intriguing premise to a close that feels disappointing.

Parker, whose previous film was shot in black and white, opts for a neon-tinted color palette for Atrabilious. However, with very little to no character work here, the visuals all feel counterproductive. I mean, I get that the approach is more plot-driven than character-driven, but the half-a-dozen cameos from renowned American actors and the haplessly arranged continuity really hurt the film instead of helping it.

Atrabilious (2023) Movie Review

To add to that, none of the acting performances here truly stand out. Except maybe Jeffrey Wright, who I think has a commanding screen presence even when he is just sitting across you looking dead in your eyes, none of these characters stick with you. Mark Boone Junior’s antagonist feels interesting on paper, but he isn’t given much material to work on, so even when he is referencing Macbeth or soaking his weapon of justice in human blood, you are left unfettered.

I know that the 19-year-old filmmaker is working on a micro-budget here, but since he opts for similar thematic elements of grief, loss, and its repercussions – which he already explored in the debut, you get a sense that he isn’t ready to tackle the weight, or seriousness of the subject just yet.

I also notice that the weapon of wrath here – a miniature-sized version of the Wall Street Big Bull is supposed to feel like a direct metaphor for how men exploit everything that does well for humanity for personal, capitalistic gain – but that element is never explored, leading me to believe that I was reading too much into it.

Overall, Atrabilious feels like another lost opportunity for Parker. A film that might just be more interesting with a bigger budget and better post-production that, in its current state, just feels like it’s stitched together in a rush.

Read More: Sex, Love, Misery: New New York [2022] Review – An unfiltered look at the dating scene in the city

Atrabilious (2023) Movie Links – IMDb
Atrabilious (2023) Movie Cast – Leon Addison Brown, Mark Boone Junior, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeffery Wright, Evan Jonigkeit, Alec Baldwin

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