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The Frame – film review

March 18, 2015


Impressive follow-up to Ink is a metaphysical mindbender.

the frame falling

Written & directed by Jamin Winans. Produced by Kiowa Winans. Starring David Carranza, Tiffany Mualem Christopher Soren Kelly and Cal Bartlett. Running time: 127 minutes.

Not nearly as straight forward as their previous feature Ink, this latest superbly-made offering from husband and wife Colorado-based filmmakers Jamin & Kiowa Winans (he directs, she produces) is a metaphysical mystery thriller, and something of a puzzle. And like all great puzzle films, The Frame contains just the right mix of obscurity and clues, allowing enormous scope for interpretation. This isn’t a film which simply holds your hand and tells you what it’s about. It’s a film which invites you to come along for the ride and ultimately arrive at your own conclusions.

A reluctant thief named Alex, yearning to break free from a dangerous crime cartel, discovers he is being observed through his television by a young woman, Sam, whom he recognizes to be a paramedic from a TV drama show he’s a fan of. Sam appears to have intimate knowledge of Alex’s life – as he likewise (in Sam’s reality) also appears to be a character in a TV crime drama on her own television screen. It seems the parallel lives of these two strangers have somewhow become connected via the TV screens in each other’s apartments. Is Alex the target of some bizarre and elaborate police surveillance operation? Is Sam losing her grip on reality? Or is there a higher purpose to what is happening to them both.

While on the surface The Frame is a surreal, mind-bending mystery thriller with action elements and sustained tension, at its emotional core, it is essentially an – albeit refreshingly unconventional – love story. Both Alex and Sam have been scarred by traumatic events in their past and are unable to move on with their lives. They could be soul mates, but this is never made explicit. More likely they are each other’s guardian angels, separated and captured in a kind of metaphysical limbo.

the frame tiffany maulem

The central performances by relative newcomers Tiffany Maulem and David Carranza are outstanding and I see big things ahead for both these performers. Tiffany Maulem especially is mesmerizing to watch; expressing a great deal with just a look. The authenticity of interplay and chemistry between she and Carranza through the television screen is palpable thanks in part to the off-camera presence of each actor during the filming of their scenes. The remainder of the supporting cast is peopled with an eclectic stable of accomplished character actors, including Chris Kelly (last seen in Ink) who is virtually unrecognizable in multiple roles as ‘The Mechanic’, while veteren TV actor Cal Bartlett brings his customary gravitas to proceedings as Alex’s ailing father figure Noah. There’s also some nice chemistry between David Carranza and Anthony Nuccio as his partner in crime Bama; who provides the film with its funniest moment with his violent reaction to Alex’s television surveillance fears.

The crisp 4K cinematography by Robert Muratore (here making his feature debut having lensed a whole slew of shorts and documentaries) is simply gorgeous. With the predominant use of available light and practical on-set lighting lending the film     a believably authentic and natural feel to the scenes. And the subtle use of CGI is     so seamlessly integrated, I was amazed after listening to Jamin and Kiowa’s commentary just how much CG was actually employed throughout the film.

the frame truck heist

As those familiar with the Winans’ celebrated second feature Ink and their subsequent short film Uncle Jack will attest, Jamin displays a sure hand in staging well-orchestrated and kinetic action set-pieces – and The Frame is no different. Opening with a thrilling heist sequence, during which a gang of thieves (Alex included) commandeer a couple of semi trailers – with the cops in pursuit, Jamin clearly demonstrates enormous confidence in handling these large scale action set-pieces. Wall-to-wall storyboarding is clearly in evidence for the entire duration of the film, which goes a long way to explain why there isn’t a single shot wasted and every cut happens for a reason. The director’s skill as an editor is also very much on display during these heist sequences in particular (with Jamin citing Michael Mann as an influence), while his evocative and atmospheric music score adds greatly to the viewer’s emotional involvement. In her seconadary role as sound designer, producer Kiowa’s Lynchian soundscapes are also a major contributor to the overall unsettling atmosphere of the film.

the frame the mechanic

As in Ink, genuinely eerie moments abound; particularly in scenes involving the ‘black oil’ which Alex sees dripping from various buildings and spewing forth into the sky from bizarre and spooky refinery towers which appear to be encroaching on the city. Another creepy highlight is the top-hatted Mechanic, using a paint brush to daub entranced pedestrians with black oil and riding a makeshift trike built from junk, hosing down parked cars with still more of the black stuff.

The Frame is a film which has stayed with me long after seeing it and it continues     to reveal its underlying meanings with subsequent revisits. Having seen it twice now, it was for me, even more enjoyable and profoundly moving second time around. With their impressive output so far, the Winans are firmly establishing themselves as two of the most exciting and idiosyncratic (truly independent) fantasy filmmakers to make their presence felt for quite some time. And I won’t be at all surprised if The Frame finds a deserving place on my top ten list of favorite films of the year.

Viewed on Blu-ray.

To purchase a Blue-ray or DVD copy of The Frame and thus support these talented filmmakers directly, please visit the Winans’ official website here:

4.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

  1. gregory moss permalink

    Jamin & Kiowa have just released a brand new trailer … nice work guys!


  2. Oh! I watched this several months ago after reading your review. I meant to come back to say… I loved it! Thanks for introducing me to it! 🙂 I started Ink but haven’t gone back to finish it yet. Couldn’t get into that one…


    • gregory moss permalink

      That’s great! So pleased you like it! And it definitely holds up with repeated viewings. And if you get the chance, do give Ink another go. I’d love to see these guys continue to make movies. I also recommend the short film they made in between these too – it’s on youtube. It’s called Uncle Jack. Well worth a look.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll try to finish Ink – hopefully it’s still on Amazon Video. Oh – thanks for the tip on the short film! I’ll check that out too. 🙂


  3. I love this film and I love Ink. Outstanding films.


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