In the thriller “Tethered,” a little blind boy is raised by his parents to live self-sufficient and alone in the woods, keeping himself tied, by rope, to the home he makes his way back to each day after checking his trapline.
That’s about as minimal as minimalist thrillers get, which can be a virtue but in this case produces a movie sorely lacking in surprises, action or suspense.
Solomon — played by Brody Bett as a tween, Jared Laufree as a teen — traps animals for food, plants root crops in a garden and keeps a goat. Mom (Alexandra Paul) raised him to follow three rules to keep himself alive out here by himself.
“Always give back to the forest when it provides for us.” That means leaving a little bit of squirrel meat or what have you out there for the critters. “When your will is almost gone, find comfort in singing our song.” She and his father read his children’s books on cassette tape, and she sang with little Solomon as well. And thirdly, “Never ever let go of the rope. The rope will keep you safe.”
“Tethered” is about what the near-adult Solomon starts hearings in those woods, and what he and a hunter (Kareem Ferguson) who stumbles into him try to do about it.
The narrative of Daniel Robinette’s debut feature is seeded with clues about what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s to come. Something sent the father away, something Mom doesn’t talk about even as she teaches their son to celebrate Dad’s birthday with a fishing trip and birthday cake.
And once Mom is gone, we continue to wonder about those things even if Solomon doesn’t.
There are nits to pick here, about how the kid is really getting by. But mainly this is a simple creature feature variation, without the frights to back that up. Something is growling unearthly noises in the dark, leaving claw marks high on trees. Something got Solomon’s goat. Something might be disappointing when we see how obvious that something is.
The acting isn’t bad, and the sense of primitive isolation is palpable. As debut features go, I’ve seen worse, which is about as far as this review goes by way of endorsement.
Rating: unrated, violence
Cast: Jared Laufree, Brody Bett, Alexandra Paul and Kareem Ferguson.
Credits: Directed by Daniel Robinette, scripted by Aaron Sorgius and Daniel Robinette. A Gravitas Ventures release.