45365 continues the tradition of a new wave of documentaries that focus on seemingly mundane subjects that when successfully explored, result in engaging and challenging filmmaking. Directors Turner Ross and Bill Ross have created a film that’s equally conceptual as it is narrative, providing some great characters and striking imagery. Watching this film is like living in Sidney for an hour and half. The abundance of characters and how their stories manage to naturally coalesce is a perfect representation of the intimate nature of life in a small town.
The concept is extremely simple. The filmmakers spent nine months in their hometown of Sidney, Ohio; following the residents as they prepare for and take part in a series of local events. There’s the highschool football game, a judge’s re-election, a county fair and a smash-up derby among other things. This is the framework for the film, providing the connective tissue between a bunch of seemingly unrelated people in an organic ebb and flow of subtle god-eye-view storytelling. In the first few minutes of the film, some clever editing gives the impression that we’re gliding in and out of one giant, real-time town. Everything seems to connect; an ‘in the field’ interview leads to the radio station on which it’s being broadcast, which leads to a police officer’s car radio and so on. If there’s ever a moment where we see an on-television interview, the film will more than likely cut to a third person perspective on that interview as it happens. It’s as though the Ross brothers had an army of camera’s rolling on every person at every moment. As I said, clever editing.
While most of the in-town on-goings are pretty light and harmless, there is a story thread dealing with an ex-con father who’s son seems to be quickly heading down the same path. We spend some time with their family, hanging out in their dimly lit living room as they bicker back and forth with each other. As a big fan of the television show Cops, this felt like a rare occasion to catch what happens just before an officer might bust down the door down. Although there aren’t any massive revelations during these conversations, it works as an intimate look at the activities behind closed doors in Sidney. There’s also some great stuff with a group of kids, who spend their screen time simply doing kid things. Riding their bikes, going to the carnival; it’s amazing how much you learn about their group dynamic based on the limited amount of time you spend with them. You can see the influence of one of the more outspoken kids on his much more reserved friend. Possibly a bad influence?
Like a more objective Vernon, Florida, 45365 works as a conceptual piece that thrives on its resistance against over complicating things. As you spend time with these people, you get to know Sidney, Ohio as a whole. This town plays out like a living organism, rather than simply a place.