It’s important to have purpose especially when faced with some pretty dramatic change…
While Working Man isn’t a movie with a lot of flash to it, it’s a fascinating little character study about the state of the working class and the importance for people to have genuine purpose in their lives.
In the Rust Belt of America another factory is closing. After decades on the job, the reclusive Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) finds himself out of work. Allery attempts to bide his time. However, despite the best efforts of his wife (Talia Shire), a loose-ended existence just doesn’t take and he starts sneaking into the closed factory. At first, Allery does this alone, but in time he gains an unexpected ally in a passionate former co-worker who turns on the electricity and turns up the volume in Allery’s previously secluded cocoon. Soon, other former employees want in on the action. They all take occupancy and restart production in an effort to pressure their bosses to reopen the facility. For the first time, Allery is the man in charge. However, when truths are revealed, this working man must confront the loss and pain he’s been working so hard to avoid.
Even though Working Man occasionally leans into some overt melodrama it has a real message as writer/director Robert Jury captures a tone that evokes memories of seventies cinema that lets us feel like Barbara Kopple directed Norma Rae.
It’s a story that just rings incredibly honestly from beginning to end. Writer/Director Robert Jury doesn’t amp us up with any flashy moments or storytelling tricks and it’s a little shocking how quietly this all unfolds. It’s small town/lower middle class American in the midst of economic upheaval which is something that is easily relatable for all kinds of audiences and Jury isn’t trying to make any kind of political or social statement and it’s very clear that he’s looking at the people in this town that are looking at a lack of meaning in their lives. That’s what this movie is all about. It’s not a condemnation of corporate America (which it does a little bit) but it’s a look at the people who work and live in these settings and then have the rug pulled out from underneath them. It reminds us that adaptation to things that happen in our lives is necessary, but it’s incredibly hard and never easy and that a lack of purpose for people who dedicate their lives to jobs in these types of neighbourhoods can simply be devastating.
This all come through in an excellent performance from veteran character actor Peter Gerety in his very first leading man performance. There’s nothing flashy about it, but there’s a real power to it as he tackles this man who is trying to deal with this monumental change in life and re-discover his purpose for simply getting up in the morning. It’s something so many people and so many men struggle with, coping with the grief of change in life, no matter what it is. It’s not a home run but Gerety really makes it feel real with a quiet energy that feels nothing but genuine. Billy Brown is strong opposite Gerety as another man with genuine problems and difficulty facing changes in life and the icon that is Talia Shire is quite good opposite Gerety.
At the end of the day, Working Man isn’t a perfect film as it gets clunky with a couple of story revels and it leans into the melodrama of the moment a little hard like a TV movie but it’s something that is honest and speaks to the time that we’re living in with real perfection and marks Jury as a storyteller to keep an eye on.