As easily one of the most underrated movies of 2021, Small Engine Repair is not what you think. It sure as shit wasn’t what I thought it’s going to be. Usually, I don’t like knowing much about the movie I’m about to watch. I check out the poster, tagline, IMDb rating, a couple of reviews and that’s it. So, I went into this movie expecting things to kick off pretty much immediately. To be completely honest, I thought that some girl is going to come into a shop with car trouble and things would escalate from there. However, that’s not what this movie is about at all.
Small Engine Repair is a movie about friendship, life, and most importantly, our perception of reality. It’s a movie that I think everybody should see and I’m not saying that just because it’s a black comedy with strong dramatic elements. No, I think we all need a movie like this now. It managed to capture the spirit of friendship and that small-town vibe. And much more than that, but I will leave you to discover that. As someone who spent a lot of years in a similar small environment, I have to say that I know all these guys. Hell, I’m still one of them. I know these stories, get-togethers, and all the shit that goes with this sort of life. The dialogue here was simply stellar, which is not surprising, considering that the movie is actually based on a play.
And what to say about performances? I don’t need to tell you that everybody was simply captivating and so fucking natural. However, I have to admit that Shea Whigham stood out with a very subdued and nuanced performance. If you want to see Jon Bernthal in a similar role, check out Sweet Virginia, a movie with a similar vibe. Nothing much happens in Small Engine Repair until it does. And up until then, you can enjoy a little piece of Americana. A slice of life from the town next to you of a generation still struggling to not only catch up but also to control its emotions. We also get to see why is that. So, just relax and go with the flow. And don’t think this is just about stuff from the past because it’s not. Instagram, filters, selfies and all the other shit is here too.
I simply cannot resist talking about the dissection of male ego and behavior here. So, RANT INCOMING!!! Feel free to skip it and go straight for the movie.
Several times we see instances of emotions just overwhelming a person and forcing it into fight or flight mode. It’s the ye olde “make negative emotions go away” equation. First, you have a problem, then you find someone to blame and then you act out as the righteous fixer of wrongdoings. This venting is pretty common and I’m sure you can find examples of it in your own life. Perhaps when you lose something and you accuse someone who’s handy and close by of somehow being at fault. I know I have done that numerous times. These are all honest, hard-working people who because of things forced upon them in their childhood are having trouble realizing their full potential.
Also, I will just briefly touch upon the definition of what it means to be a man and how should one behave. It all started with the tribal system of values and defined the role of a man that served a purpose of survival. Over centuries and centuries, the main components remained relatively the same but practically everything else changed. This complicated things and forced men to seek that comfort of certainty, of not thinking and only bearing responsibility for things determined by the elders. This is why you see them flocking to “prophets” like Jordan Peterson. In the modern world, everything seems incredibly blurry as they’re looking at the world through these tribal glasses. And I’m not talking about characters in this movie, per se.
Finally, how can you control your temper and live a better life? An honest question deserves an honest answer. Well, you would need to look into not only your perception of the world but also your perception of your personality. The final piece of the puzzle is realizing how the world works and that it’s governed by tribal rules. You already know all this and just have to slowly tap into it. In a complete douchy move, I have to recommend meditation, especially Sam Harris’s Waking Up course, which will help you gain a better understanding of both yourself and reality. It will also enable you to better perceive your emotions and moods, leaving you free to choose how you react to certain things.
So, now you know why I usually say “I will skip the whole rant about”. I hope you check out Small Engine Repair despite all this baggage that now I’ve attached to it. It’s really a thought-provoking movie with an intelligent and great ending.
Director: John Pollono
Writers: John Pollono
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House, Jordana Spiro
Fun Facts: John Pollono who play’s Frank is also the writer and director of this movie. He also created the original play.