Seattle is a great place, and we get our fair share of films set here, highlighting all the wonders our city has to offer. So there is no shock that a local would want to make a film about his own return. Brock Mullins was born and raised in Seattle and is an UW alumni. He began a career as a sportswriter before foraying into the world of short films.
“Return to Seattle” is Mullins’ first feature film as writer-director. He also stars as the lead, Robert, a former actor and filmmaker who, you guessed it, *returns to Seattle* when his mother passes. As his father’s health is also deteriorating, Robert decides to stay for a while. His career has been on hold anyways, and he could use the time off. He begins seeing Kate (Allie Pratt), a barkeep and a skeptic of his tender pursuits.
At first, things are good. They go on picnics and kiss on the ferry ride home. She is hesitant, but he quickly wins her over. Soon, however, jealousy rears its ugly head in their fledgling relationship. They begin to argue, namely about his rekindled friendship and professional relationship with ex-girlfriend and fellow actor Kirina (Amy Danneker), whom he casts in a film he abruptly decides to “make cheap”.
Despite Kate’s eagerness to put a kibosh on production, Robert goes forward with the film, which, as far as we can tell, stars just him and Kirina. The plot revolves around shallow discussions about the differences between Seattle and Los Angeles, and that’s about it.
A Seattle native actor-writer-director makes a film about an actor-writer-director coming back to Seattle. Very meta, right? If only “Return to Seattle” employed a higher perspective and said something – anything – about life, death, love, etc. Instead, it has no real voice and certainly no worthwhile story to tell.
Mullins has heart, and you can feel his passion for Seattle, in particular, the wonder of Washington’s natural splendor. Heavy on establishing shots – heavy, being a kind word for it; suffocating is another – the film has some beautiful images, mainly of the ocean and mountains and trees. These images, however stunning, are used too often as a replacement for action and dialogue. It fills up time and offers us nothing in terms of plot development.
But even when we are watching the actors on screen, there is quite a bit of talking about the plot and not much committing to it. In fact, it’s like that guy who was invisible in high school and shows up at your high school reunion a hot blonde on his arm, bragging about all the important, high-profile “banking” work he does now, only to find out he’s a self-employed “consultant” and the chick is a cousin. All talk, no substance. Characters reiterate the same idea through several scenes until finally they move forward with their exploits. The drama isn’t fluid or natural, but jerks us ever forward to an end that leaves us asking why we should return to Seattle at all.