How does a seemingly stable middle-aged, middle-class American descend into drug addiction? This is the question considered by the American independent film Most High.
The protagonist, Julius, played by writer/director Marty Sader, begins with a lot going for him. Though his father is dead, and his mother is unstable and distant, Julius has a robust social support structure consisting of a career as a social worker which he finds fulfilling, and the love and respect of a girlfriend, a close father figure, and a small circle of friends. But, in the span of a couple of weeks, Julius breaks up with his girlfriend, suffers the sudden and unexpected death of his father figure, becomes temporarily estranged from his closest friend, and gets fired. Though it reads more like a biblical test of Job than a plausible storyline, it plays out believably on screen during the film's first act.
During the second act, an emotionally devastated Julius is suddenly exposed and vulnerable, and into this void in his life walks Erica, played by co-writer Laura Keys. Erica provides Julius with affection and diversion, but she's also a drug addict. In Erica's company, Julius goes from heavy drinking, to recreational drug use, to addiction. In the process, Julius is physically transformed from a paunchy 240 pounds to a wasted 155, and becomes so ensnared in his addiction even Erica turns away from him.
Will Julius be able to turn things around in the third act or will he sink so low he won't ever rise again? I won't say, but Most High is worth watching to find out.
This is an exciting début from writer/director Marty Sader and co-writer and co-lead Laura Keys. The story is generally well written and well acted, with some nice touches such as the inclusion of interviews with real drug addicts. However, there is the occasional misstep. Though most of the techniques used to convey to the viewer Julius's experience of being high work well enough, a talking cockroach and a drug-induced delusion of idyllic suburban living are both tired clichés that fail to deliver, and in the case of the idyllic suburban delusion, the effect is to undercut the emotion of the accompanying non-delusional material, much to the detriment of the film's concluding act.
Most High is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1. Filmed in 35mm, the image looks very good, suffering from only a slight aliasing.
This release provides 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio options. The audio is clear with good separation between the channels on the 5.1 playback. There are no subtitles available on this release.
The theatrical trailer and a cast and crew commentary are provided. The commentary, dominated largely by Marty Sader, Laura Keys and Kenyon Robertson (actor and producer) is directed to would be filmmakers, explaining how the film was made on a minuscule $180,000 budget.
Most High is a confident first effort from filmmakers Marty Sader and Laura Keys. Despite an occasional misstep, Sader and Keys have breathed some fresh life into a tired subject. Most High is recommended, especially for fans of independent cinema.