Sundance 2011: With 'Here,' Ben Foster goes to a new place
Sometimes the Sundance Film Festival allows movie fans to find comfort in the familiar -- for instance, with Sam Rockwell, who over the years has made a habit of popping up in seemingly every third movie that plays here.
But on other occasions, the festival offers a chance to see actors in a new light. So it goes with Patrick Dempsey, as my colleagues John Horn and Chris Lee write about in this print story, and so it goes with Ben Foster.
On Friday, the 30-year-old showed audiences a very different side of him in "Here," Braden King's entry in the (admittedly small) subgenre of the Armenian road-trip romance.
On the big screen, Foster came to prominence as the cold-blooded killer Charlie Prince in "3:10 to Yuma." And when he visited Sundance two years ago, it was as a shaved-head sergeant forced to deliver bad news to families of Iraq war victims in "The Messenger."
"Here" calls for something very different. In King's film, Foster plays Will Shepard, a sensitive map surveyor who falls for an independent-minded photographer while traveling across the Armenian countryside. Foster doesn't say much in the performance, allowing his eyes to do the acting and his silent presence to mesh with the vast and often beautiful landscapes. (King acknowledged after the screening that, at least at first, he was more concerned with aesthetics than storytelling.)
When Foster does speak, it's with a dose of vulnerability, which he shows in a confessional moment after he and his new love interest hit a rough spot.
Will's profession has him surveying and assessing vast terrain, a calling he's chosen because it allows him to avoid contact with his more intimate feelings. But in Foster's portrayal, Will's pain is never far from the surface.
At the end of the screening a woman from the audience stood up and said, "It's nice to see a softer side of Ben Foster." Fittingly, Foster smiled and said nothing.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Ben Foster in "Here."
Credit: Sundance Film Festival