By Kathryn Whitney Boole

“Tumbledown” is the passion project of husband-and-wife team Sean Mewshaw and Desiree Van Til. Van Til had worked in film development in Los Angeles for years. Mewshaw got his start as a production assistant with Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” and had directed some short films. They made a decision to move back to the simple life of Van Til’s small hometown in Maine. That’s where the story of this film takes place and where the journey of the making of the film began. As told in the panel with Mewshaw and Van Til that followed my screening, Van Til had lived the heart of the story and had a great loss on which it is based. She wrote the screenplay. Mewshaw was inspired to outline the story and direct the film. It took eight years to get the film made. They never gave up.

The story follows the widow (Hannah) of a young singer/songwriter (Hunter) who had died unexpectedly soon after releasing his first album, a work that showed much promise and gained dedicated fans. The persona of Hunter after death takes on a life of its own.

Rebecca Hall, as the widow, portrays a fierce possessiveness of her husband’s memory. She lives in the backwoods house that they had built together, full of remnants of his life. She seems to have channeled her grief into a will to encapsulate the life that they had and shield it from the outside world. Jason Sudeikis plays a professor of contemporary music culture who is fascinated with the effect that Hunter had on his fans and wants to know more. The story is the gradual interweaving of the relationship that these two develop.

Joe Manganiello (“Spider-Man,” “Magic Mike XXL”) adds warmth and humor to the tale as the town’s electrical contractor/“booty call” for Hannah. Veteran character actor Griffin Dunne adds to the film’s texture as the aloof intellectual, the owner of the local bookstore where philosophical discussions take place. His character seems to be the only one in town who sees through Hannah’s self-inflicted isolation. Another vivid presence, never seen, yet at the center of the drama, is singer/composer Damien Jurado, whose haunting ballads define the “ghost” of Hunter.

For financial reasons the film was shot mostly in Massachusetts rather than Maine. That state’s landscape however is a perfect “stand-in.” Cinematographer Seamus Tierney captures some magnificent vistas. Director Mewshaw surrounded himself with experienced team members. Editors Sandra Adair and Suzy Elmiger have impressive resumes dating back to the ’70s and ’80s, respectively. Production designer Jane Ann Steward (“The Descendants,” “Sideways,” “About Schmidt”) created rooms that reflected not only the region’s culture but also the personality and emotions flowing through them.

There are touching scenes, moments of fun mixed with moments of emotional pain. The story rings true and it develops in a circuitous way. Some things perhaps are revealed sooner than necessary. However, the two main characters (and Hunter’s spirit) grow on you, and you become invested in them by the end.

Rated R. 105 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at For previously published reviews, see