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Hope En Route

CULTSCORE OVERVIEW

SCREENPLAY
7
ACTING
7
MAKING
8

 

Directed by Des Matelske | Reviewed by Rich Monetti

During the early stages of the pandemic as many of us sat at home, a new term became familiar to us all. Essential workers, they held down the supermarkets, the electrical grid, mass transportation and many other necessary avenues. Taking on a mythical stature, we suddenly questioned why we had long overlooked these benevolent warriors and heaped praise in hopes of allaying our own guilt and privilege. Of course, the dire state eventually passed, and not really knowing how many paid the ultimate price, we’ve pretty much returned to ignoring the necessities they still provide. But Des Matelske has no intention of letting us get off that easy. In Hope En Route, the filmmaker has resolved to make sure we acknowledge the heroism that made our survival possible and she does so for both them and us.

So to the manual scan of a car radio dial, we are informed by the screen titling that this factually based, 14 minute short will take us back to the beginning of the pandemic. Then stopping short on the hard guitar sound of country rock, a working class hero story is obviously on the way, and the old school radio dial foretelling the venue, the descending zoom into the truck yard touches the main events down into the front seat of an 18 wheeler.

Thus, the long, slow pan of the rig almost makes the vehicle seem like a living entity and arriving at Dan (Daren Matelske) he’s like an extension of the mechanical life form. Ready to roll, he’s got his smokes cued up and grooves to the music as if March 2020 was just another month on the manifest.

No beat missed, a full head of gray hair complements the wrinkles that proudly burrow into Matelske’s face, and wearing the rugged outerwear of a teamster, we don’t let the out of place mask and gloves fool us. Dan is going to go about his business no matter what.

That includes a hefty cough he can’t hide, but in his dedicated mindset to duty, deflection is part of the job description.  “Well, a pack a day will do it to you,” he turns away the concerned warehouse manager.

And unlike the fictional heroes that zip through a myriad of Hollywood universes, he has no expectation of worship. “Somebody’s got to do this,” he takes the burden in stride.

Dan is open to reward, though. The two way admiration of the good people around him pays rich dividends, and so does the pride in doing a good day’s work. The downward spiral of Covid news reports and the ever present cloud of death doesn’t change his routine either.

But in reality, Dan is not superman. Covid is in the air, and the trucker displays all the documented symptoms. Cold sweats, the labored breathing and the escalating cough that Matelske mirrors are more than an actor hitting the scene descriptions. The realistic presentation makes viewers feel like a respirator is on the way, and we’re about to be fitted for the cumbersome contraption.

He presses on nonetheless, and Leroy Van Dyke’s rendition of Amazing Grace seems to perpetuate the working class slog that Dan dedicates himself to. But the enduring classic might not be meant to trumpet our hero.

Against the backdrop of the timeless melody, the uplifting words have probably been lost to most of us. The song is about redemption, and from what we see of Dan, the protagonist is obviously not in need.

That leaves us. So the focus shifted, Des Matelske seems to be implying that it’s not just about remembering the selflessness of those like Dan. Instead, the director is offering redemption to all the bystanders who benefitted. In other words, if God is to forgive us from our safe little fortresses, we must be willing to take on the role of the essentials we claim to admire. And not just for the Dan’s of the world but anyone in need.

It doesn’t really take a hero. Dan would be the first one to say so, and in the roadmap provided, Hope En Route simply asks us to be human and take care of each other.


Rich Monetti was born in the Bronx and grew up in Somers, New York. He went onto study Computer Science and Math at Plattsburgh State. But after about a decade in the field, he discovered that writing was his real passion. He’s been a freelancer since 2003 and is always looking for the next story. Rich also dabbles with screenwriting and stays active by playing softball and volleyball.

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