Houston Chronicle: Why ‘Bolivar’ is the Galveston County-shot indie film we need right now

Houston-born Nell Teare writes, directs and stars in this poignant low-budget drama that was partially filmed on the Bolivar Peninsula

The haunting low-budget drama “Bolivar,” partially shot, as its title implies, on the Bolivar Peninsula along the southeast Texas coast, is a labor of love. It’s the feature-film directorial debut from Houston-born Nell Teare, a former High School for the Performing and Visual Arts student, who directs, co-writes and stars, appearing in nearly every scene.

But the term “labor of love” can also carry the ring of dismissal, as in this person obviously put a lot of brawn and heart into this project and might deserve an “A” for effort but the result isn’t worth all of their creative blood, sweat and tears. That’s not the case with “Bolivar,” a well-crafted, moving and ultimately uplifting drama about a woman adrift in the backwash of grief after the death of her mother and her marriage.

Nelle Teare is Maggie, a creative writing teacher who, as the start of the film, is getting ready to get back to work after taking time off to deal with both her mother’s passing and the particulars of her divorce from her husband, Andrew (Alex Désert, “Becker”). She’s also juggling the long-running guilt that she carries over her thorny relationship with her drug-addicted younger brother Sonny (James Walsh, who also co-wrote the script) who suddenly reappears in her life.

But she hasn’t yet really come to terms with any of these seismic life changes. That’s evident in her day-drinking, willingness to succumb to the siren song of casual sex with a beefy bartender (Chris Petrovski, “Madam Secretary”) and the bickering with her father (Robert Pine, “Five Days at Memorial”).

What proves to be her salve are the old video tapes and memories she has of the family, in happier times, frolicking along the Texas shore during a hazy, long-ago summer. But no one can stay cocooned in the past, swaddled in the comfort of memory forever and Maggie has to find a way to push through.

Teare and Walsh have created a simple story that nonetheless reverberates with complex emotions. It will be intriguing to see where Teare goes from here as a director and writer.
Unfortunately, this is the type of small film that can easily get lost in the cinematic shuffle, especially at this time of year when theaters and streamers are bursting with new titles. “Bolivar,” like a beautiful day at the beach, deserves to be seen and remembered.

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