Film scores

Soundtrack review: Uncle John (Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta – 2015)

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“Uncle John” is a 2015 drama. John is a kindly, well-liked old man in a small rural town. John has just killed a man named Dutch. Dutch had done a lot of bad things to a lot of nice people. Nobody in town would think to implicate John – nobody but Danny, Dutch’s violent drunk of a brother. John’s nephew Ben arrives from Chicago on an impromptu trip to his hometown as his uncle struggles to evade Danny’s growing suspicions and looming threats. In this masterfully acted tale of small-town intrigue, one man’s need for revenge may cost many more their lives. The score was written by Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta. I am not familiar with either composer.

“John’s theme” is dark and quiet. It’s a somber start to the score which consists of rarely stroked piano keys and a low key violin whispering in the background. The theme shows determination and mystery and it does not introduce a happy character to us. “Through town” continues with the stringy and uncomfortable sound. Once again this score begins very quiet and threatening and I really need to pay attention to get all its subtleties. I think we have an experimental score on our hands and I am intrigued and curious.

“Fire at the quarry” convinces me. This is an experimental score, the kind that will divide the listeners. Some might want to stay for the duration and subject themselves to the composers’ experiments while others will get frustrated and stop. This cue is the point where people should make a choice, because at times it reminded me of an MRI I had while other moments felt like the sound of a distant ship through the fog at night.

And then all of a sudden the romantic side of this dual story kicks in. “Bike ride / Ben’s theme” is a sweet little piano number that make me squint because this light was just too bright after the darkness from before. See, you should stay for the duration for these little surprises, even if you skip the dark and uncomfortable cues. “Diner” for example is quite an unintelligible piece, but “The farm” is relaxing and nice.

I like experimental. I like dark. I like this score. I don’t get frustrated or annoyed, I stay curious and invested in it even when it has nothing more than an echo of a piano on top of static. I get rewards like the almost Nine Inch Nails like piano of “Heard a sound” and “North”. For me, listening to “Uncle John” was an interesting experience and I will always defend a score like this.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 32

Album excellence: 14%

Highlights:

8 Heard A Sound

9 North

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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