Review by James Lindorf
Inspired by a past relationship of Writer, Director, and co-Producer Eric H. Sheffield, Hatchback is a quirky independent comedy that was released August 15th, 2019. Wyatt (Ericson Just) lives in a flophouse-like apartment with deadbeat roommates and dreams of being a journalist. After leaving home for L.A., all he’s managed to accomplish is a lowly temp job at the clickbait company, Slice. With depression and cynicism setting in, his dreams nearly dashed, Wyatt finally notices the mysterious Fern (Larkin Bell). For the last few months, she has lived on his block in an 87’ Toyota Tercel hatchback. After receiving a cryptic letter from a stranger that her father is alive, homeless, and living in L.A., Fern decided to go looking for him herself. Intrigued by her story, Wyatt joins Fern on her search, in hopes of writing a story that Slice might publish.
Made on a shoestring budget, it is clear that this production was a labor of love for Sheffield, the cast and the crew. The limited budget is no more evident than when it comes to the music, which is not just bad, but downright off-putting at times. Sheffield and Ericson have worked together previously, and getting a friend to do you a favor is a great way to save money. Another cost-saving measure is to find a co-star with little to no experience. Hatchback was the first feature film for Bell, but due to budget issues, it was not the first one to be released.
Ericson and Bell give it their all. Whether you enjoy their performances or not, it is clear that they are committed. They each have a couple of moments where they can shine, with the brightest of the bunch going to Bell when she gets to play into a homeless stereotype. The performances and the dialogue may not be at a consistently high-level for the 86-minute runtime, but Wyatt and Fern can be endearing.
The script meanders from their search for her father and Wyatt’s home life to attempts at action sports and his career aspirations. This issue is most likely caused by Sheffield’s real-life experiences influencing the story. When the focus should be the development of the relationship while making progress with the search, it is too often interrupted with the mundane. The time spent on the actual search is lacking, resulting in the milestone moments come too easy. Fern spends months searching for the Dr., and Wyatt tracks them down in an afternoon. Someone else joining Sheffield in the writing process could have pointed out these inconsistencies and helped punch up the dialogue. This change could have turned an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable film into an indie darling.