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Working Man

“Politicians say they’re going to help us. Fuck that. The thing is a person needs a job to survive but you need work to feel like you’re worth something.”

Benny Mendez (J. Salome Martinez)

Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) finds comfort in his daily routine. He packs up his thermos with coffee and lunch box with a simple meal, walks to the local plant and does the job he’s been doing faithfully for the past 25 years. Unfortunately for Allery, everything is about to change.

It’s the last day before the plant officially closes for good. No longer having a job is something that Allery just can’t process. The thing is, Allery is still reeling from the loss of his son Gabe. He and his wife Iola (Talia Shire) have been going through the motions, trying to get through each day. Allery’s job is the one constant in his life. It gives him a sense of purpose. And he’s not about to let it go.

So Allery goes back to work. He breaks into the plant and starts cleaning. His former coworkers think he’s nuts. But one coworker, Walter (Billy Brown), thinks Allery might be onto something. As Allery and Walter develop a bond, the work together to revive the plant. The other coworkers become curious and join in. This quiet, unassuming man is about to find his voice and reconnect with the part of himself he had lost with the death of his son.

“It’s just something I need to do.”

Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety)

Directed by Robert Jury, Working Man is a small film with a big message. It offers deep insight into the life of the American laborer. This way of life has been dwindling with the rise of globalization and corporate greed. These people have been a significant driving force in our current political climate. 

Jury’s film explores the closing of American factories and the subsequent upheaval that this causes in small communities. The main character’s identity and self worth is wrapped up into his life as a working man. There’s something to be said about having a sense of purpose in your life. Going to work, doing a good job and feeling like you’ve accomplished something. There’s value in this that goes beyond monetary compensation. For Allery, the routine and the reliability is a security blanket. It’s also a way for him to avoid dealing with his own personal issues.

At first the film seemed predictable. I enjoyed the slow build to what I thought was an inevitable conclusion. But it took an unexpected turn which I thought made it more interesting. Peter Gerety’s reserved performance as the film’s unlikely hero is compelling. He matches so well with Billy Brown who plays Walter, a much more intense hero who shakes things up in the story. Talia Shire’s role reminded me a bit of Adrian in the Rocky films. The character of Benny Mendez, played by J. Salome Martinez, delivers the film’s ideology. There is a diverse cast with various ages, races and genders (including one minor transgender character) represented.

The story is set in the Rust Belt and filmed in the Chicago suburbs. About the film, Robert Jury said, “my greatest hope for Working Man is to create a curiosity, a dialogue, and a meaningful connection with folks – regardless of personal beliefs or alliances. Loss, grief, recovery, and love are universal. The time feels right.”

Working Man is now available on DVD and video on demand. 

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