Finestkind juggles too many concepts, resulting in tonal disarray that falls short in capturing the emotional depth that’s intended.
When I first saw the trailer for Paramount Plus’ 2023 drama Finestkind, it immediately drew me in. With my admiration for both Jenna Ortega and Tommy Lee Jones’ work, the prospect of seeing them share the screen hinted at a promising film. In addition, Ben Foster and emerging star Toby Wallace, as part of the cast, generated excitement. Yet, despite Finestkind offering occasional moments of intrigue, the film ultimately stumbles and fails due to its muddled themes and tones.
As a recent college graduate, Charlie wishes to reconnect with his estranged half-brother Tom (Foster) and join him on his fishing boat for the summer. As they work alongside one another, Charlie and Tom slowly rebuild their relationship, which only strengthens after a near-fatal accident. Charlie’s tardiness after spending the night with his new love interest, Mabel (Ortega), sets off a series of challenges not only at sea but also onshore. Concurrently, Tom encounters some surprising revelations about his estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones), who unexpectedly resurfaces in his life along the way.
Finestkind unfolds through three storylines: an emerging romance, a somewhat sluggish family-based drama that dominates the initial 60 minutes, and a sudden shift to a crime thriller midway through the runtime. The film’s crime element holds a stronger grip, but the storytelling is a jumbled mess.
This is rather unexpected considering director Brian Helgeland’s previous work includes two masterful screenplays, L.A. Confidential and Mystic River. Given his family’s ties to fishing, I also expected a more polished story with a clearer direction. However, the narrative juggles an array of ideas—love, estranged family, brotherhood, crime, and illness—as it aims for resonance. Unfortunately, despite some gripping instances, it never truly anchors its concepts. Although Finestkind reflects some moments of allure, just when you think the film has a grasp on its story, it introduces new notions or undergoes drastic shifts in tone that hinder the audience’s investment in the characters and the plot.
Finestkind shows potential with certain ideas, though its biggest issues stem from insufficient exploration, resulting in a shortfall of the intended emotional depth. That said, there are some redeemable moments. Finestkind’s standout quality is its depiction of the deep brotherhood between Charlie and Tom. Witnessing their bond being rebuilt is a delight and offers some of the film’s most genuine and heartfelt instances. Finestkind also thrives when exploring the crime thriller angle, but unfortunately, it ventures into this territory way too late in the narrative.
The film boasts a solid cast, though Clayne Crawford’s portrayal of Boston gang member Pete is the most compelling. However, despite his commendable performance, the character feels constrained by a messy narrative and limited screen time. Tommy Lee Jones reaffirms his infinite acting range, even when playing a more understated character, though he and Foster’s portrayal of father and son lacks believability.
Similarly, Ortega and Wallace falter in the chemistry department, though their romance adds a sentimental subplot, even when overshadowed by the convoluted story that surrounds it. Charlie and Tom’s relationship is the heart of the film, and, luckily, Foster and Wallace possess an on-screen rapport that conveys their connection to viewers. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of unnecessary subplots are stuffed into the film’s narrative, which takes away from their unification.
Overall, Finestkind’s heart is in the right place, but the story is messy. The film grapples with too many concepts while failing to provide the emotional depth intended for each. By the film’s end, you’re left questioning what the intended message of the film is actually supposed to be.
Finestkind will be streaming on Paramount+ from November 15, 2023.