The Free World (Sundance Review)
Boyd Holbrook turns in an excellent performance as Mo Lundy, a former convict who spends time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The details surrounding the accused crime aren’t important, which is why first-time filmmaker Jason Lew doesn’t bother divulging them. Instead, The Free World concentrates on the struggles of adapting to life outside the prison walls. Lew constructs the film with as a subdued indie noir, but the results are surprisingly potent due to an electric third act.
Now a free man, Mo works at an animal shelter appropriately called Second Hope. The transition into the free world is challenging for Mo, who finds it easier to sleep in his closet than in a bed. Even though he keeps to himself and doesn’t cause trouble, the local police still treat him like a criminal. While on duty one night, a woman (Elisabeth Moss) finds her way into the shelter and passes out covered in blood. Over time, the two get to know one another and discover how similar they are to each other.
The Free World manages to take simple material and elevate it through artful cinematography and terrific performances (Holbrook especially). While there are some tonal quirks—like an out-of-place car chase scene near the end—the film remains an impressive debut from Lew who, at the very least, shows promise as an upcoming filmmaker.