Cannes 2024: Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point, Eephus, To A Land Unknown | Festivals & Awards

May 31, 2024 - Movies

Lund’s feature debut, “Eephus,” similarly captures the passage of time through a beloved American pastime, following a men’s recreational baseball game played on their favorite field. 

Soon to be demolished to make way for an elementary school, this humble patch of green is perhaps nothing special to anyone other than the middle-aged, community-league players who show up in uniform with heavy hearts one October morning, towing coolers full of Narragansett. But as their last game drags on and refuses to end, even after the sun sets and they’re forced to light the field with their cars’ headlights, they keep playing, dedicated to seeing it through and at a loss, at least outside of the boisterous camaraderie of gameplay, to articulate what their lives, friendships, and rivalries will become without this cherished environment. 

It’s that camaraderie, rather than the final score, that matters most to Lund, who also served as the editor; working in league with cinematographer Greg Tango, he keeps the players in frame and, without disrupting the film’s miraculous temporal continuity moves from dugout to first base to outfield, tuning into the barrage of insults, jokes, and surprisingly candid asides that unite the players in a reassuring communal energy. But “Eephus” is ultimately about the fading of the light, of a time, a space, a way of living; amid the long stretches of stasis and sudden bursts of activity that make up their gameplay, time elapses, and a reckoning with finality awaits.

Lund explained in a post-screening Q&A at Cannes that he was inspired first by the durational landscape portraits of James Benning, only to steer “Eephus” closer to Richard Linklater’s hangout classics upon discovering a cadre of actors—too many to name here, but among them Keith William Richards (“Uncut Gems”), Keith Poulson (“The Sweet East”), and Wayne Diamond (“Uncut Gems”)—whose performances felt as lined, creased, and true to life as the well-worn uniforms they pull over their aching bodies to play one last game in a place that matters more than they’ll ever come out and say. Easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen about baseball (even as the sport here could stand in for any number of cultural traditions waning into memory), “Eephus” has about it a mournful, lightly absurd poetry of the mundane, a rapt attention to the intimacy of transience and the meanings we make from relics and rituals of a time we’re passing through.

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