The Motel Life

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Reno, Nevada. Brothers Frank (Hirsch) and Jerry Lee (Dorff) live hand-to-mouth, eking out an existence by doing odd jobs. When Jerry kills a cyclist in a tragic accidence, the blame is unfairly pinned on him and the pair are left to make some desperate decisions.


Alt-country singer Willy Vlautin’s songs (with band Richmond Fontaine) were bittersweet stories about life’s losers, and his transition to writer seemed effortless. His first novel, persuasively adapted here by the Polsky brothers (with brilliantly conceived animated interludes), is the elegiac tale of rootless brothers Frank (Emile Hirsch) and Jerry Lee (Stephen Dorff), whose already hardscrabble existence takes a turn for the worse when Jerry Lee is involved in a hit and run, leaving Frank to pick up the pieces. Hirsch and especially Dorff are terrific in a film that’s so downbeat, you may not notice your heart breaking.

Powerful, moving and melancholy. A low-key treat.