‘The Integrity of Joseph Chambers’ is a staggering study in fractured masculinity
Writer and director Robert Machoian first rose to prominence with an emotionally charged indie escape The murder of two lovers, a small-scale relationship drama that strips away all artifice to reveal the raw impact of two people in turmoil. Released in 2020 as the world experienced its own isolation due to a global pandemic, the atmospheric chamber piece proved to be a terrific debut from uncompromising talent.
Two years later, Machoian is back with Joseph Chamber’s Integritys, a slow-burning character study starring Clayne Crawford as Joe, an insurance salesman who decides to go native with guns and ammunition to settle in a small community. A community that also happens to be the hometown of his wife Tess (Jordana Brewster).
Crawford carries all the raw charisma of his first collaboration with Machoian in a role that sees him take up every second of screen time. From the opening scenes, which define their relationship through pregnant breaks and economic exposition, to an early morning exodus that sees Joe hit the road, Machoian’s second effort is as intense as its debut.
Right off the bat, the film carries a voyeuristic tone similar to two lovers, as the audience stays behind their truck as it weaves through rows of claustrophobic trees. Sound designer and music editor Peter Albrechtsen adds to this unease by employing disjointed orchestral snippets that are layered to add tension, a technique that adds emotional resonance to haunting locations as Joe tries to find himself.
In her follow-up, Machoian continues her fascination with tortured souls who exist in a world of perpetual crisis, a world in which they feel isolated from family and friends due to constraints of their own making. With Joe, it comes down to feeling emasculated due to his white-collar credentials, of a community defined by true hunter-gatherers.
Crawford captures all of that insecurity and conflict through a searing performance that carries the film effortlessly. For most of the runtime, he’s onscreen alone, roaming endless acres of eerie forests with only wildlife for company. With shades from both Walter Hills Southern comfort and Joel Schumacher To fallMachoian has created something unique in his second foray into a feature film.
Take a tonal approach more in tune with The witch by Robert Egger The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is a fascinating thing that delights in silences. Much of the gleaning fun comes from watching a man unravel, as fantasy and reality begin to merge. Alone with his thoughts (which lean towards more masculine activities), Machioan amuses himself by transforming Joe into an independent-style Walter Mitty figure, happy to exist in a bubble of his own creation. With the echoes of an imaginary crowd ringing in his ears, Joe is captured on screen celebrating victories that will forever remain imaginary.
From an allegorical point of view, the film could say something about the role of gender in contemporary society, as traditional ideas begin to seem old-fashioned, even obsolete. In much of the world, gender roles are beginning to merge, as attraction becomes an increasingly abstract notion, one that some people will embrace and accommodate accordingly, while others will react in different ways. more primitive way by returning to nature.
Other immediately obvious interpretations refer to the American attitude towards artillery, which gives every citizen the right to carry firearms. A nationwide mentality that sees some reacting diligently, while others adopt dangerous levels of rights. Given the premise, it would be wrong not to even consider this hot potato topic to be in the mix somewhere for Machoian.
Beyond that, The Integrity of Joseph Chambers also explores the fragility of men in society, if only in their desire for conformity, visually testifying to a man who experiences every human emotion en route to an earth-shattering epiphany. In many ways, this return to nature for Joe leaves him with nowhere to hide, allowing for a level of emotional catharsis unobtainable in everyday life, meaning he emerges from these woods a changed man, with only his integrity to keep him warm. A realization that not only hits hard for the audience and the actor, but confirms that Machoian is someone worth watching.