America, “the land of the free”, is a vast space with two borders that bleed drinkable prosperity and a center that struggles to keep the so-called American Dream alive. I hesitate not to explore the ways in which America is impoverished educationally, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. As an American woman, I cannot afford to withhold my shame about the state of the foundations of this country. Sometimes some great artist makes a film that examines the many faces of American poverty, and I feel not so very alone in knowing what is wrong. Sarah Colangelo’s ‘Little Accidents’ is one of those mirrors of the wasteland we must face.
In the film, a small town is grieving the loss of 10 coalminers. The one man who survived is caught between all kinds of vultures who want him to tell a different story about what really led to the tragedy. The coal company wants him to deny knowing about their concealment of poor working conditions and the union reps pressure him to exaggerate key features of the companies mismanagement of the facilities, thereby strengthening their case which would lead to more money from the suit. He just wants to tell the truth and be, as he puts it, “useful” again. As he navigates the obstacles of others greed, he becomes engrossed by a relationship with an upper-class woman suffering the grief of loss over her son. All characters are brought to their knees by death in one way or another, regardless of their material circumstances.
There is a part of all this that calls into question why the American Dream is suffering. Is it the abuse of corporate thieves that’s forcing the dream higher out of the average worker’s grasp, or could it also be the dishonest workings of any organized party, since politics is vicious and even those who help the little guys are pressed to play the game of greed? Who can workers and average citizens who aspire to comfort, stability and happiness trust?
The story is also about the role of children in cycles of power. The son of a dead coalminer accidentally causes the death of the son of his late father’s boss. The secret consumes him as he grieves the loss of his own as well as the loss of another, and one who might have likewise killed him if fate had worked in reverse: the proverbial eye for an eye among men. The characters all experience closure when truths are told, but the weight of needless death still looms over the story. It leaves viewers with questions about class equality- who the real thieves in the system are, and how these models can be redeemed for the sake of all who live off of and within them. The answers all stir beyond the screen.