It’s not impossible to get onboard at the outset of writer-director Brian Helgeland’s Finestkind. The film involves a family of fishermen, learning about their way of life, and understanding some of the economic pressures forcing them to take greater risks to survive. Once this film expands beyond that, however, there’s just no way to reel it all in.
The problems begin with Helgeland’s writing, which works insofar as we can see it working. We’re introduced to young Charlie (Toby Wallace) who’s eager to fish with his grizzled half-brother Tom (Ben Foster). After their maiden voyage together ends via a rescue mission (oops!), the pair take out Tom’s father’s boat, this time running into trouble with the law. Tommy Lee Jones plays the dad, bringing his usual gravitas even if the film around his character doesn’t deserve it. From there, we get subplots involving (in order): a romance between Charlie and Mabel (Jenna Ortega), the girl from the wrong side of the tracks (Jenna Ortega); then there’s a character dealing with cancer; and finally, the crew gets roped into a multi-stage drug deal featuring a late-breaking villain played by Clayne Crawford. He seems to have marched in from a different movie.
In all, Finestkind is somehow overwritten and underexplained. Each new element Helgeland adds to heighten the drama just makes the situation more laughable. And when the story does finally end, it seems like everyone has forgotten about everything that came before. This is a film with the moral weight of a postcard. You will not wish to be here.