Danica Novgorodoff set a pretty high standard for herself with the gorgeous SLOW STORM, last year’s poignant work about crisscrossing lives that converge in the onslaught of a huge storm. Just as she showed there, she has an ability to capture the small nuances of human emotion in little movements and facial expressions, a talent she brings to her latest, REFRESH, REFRESH, an adaptation of Benjamin Percy’s prose short story of the same name. (A movie based on the book is in the works, so the story has hit the trifecta of cultural touchstones.)
REFRESH, REFRESH takes place in rural Oregon. It marks the time three teenage friends spend together as they struggle with growing up without fathers and trying to define for themselves just what it means to be a man. They live in a town where most of the adult men have gone off to fight in Iraq, and they know, as they count down the minutes until graduation, that they will be expected to do the same.
Or not. Life is full of possibilities. But when you change the plan, the one that seems to be carved in stone, you’re not only defining yourself and your own views on life, you’re also making a statement about the decisions of everyone else surrounding you.
The title refers to one of the constants in the boys’ lives: refreshing their email to check for news on their dads. As they await news of their fathers’ fates, they come closer to their own.
REFRESH, REFRESH, fittingly given its background, plays out much like a small movie, with Novgorodoff using the pages as her own personal cinema. It’s beautifully done, and the story itself offers a perfect meshing with her talents.
Reviewed by John Hogan on October 18, 2011