Austin Film Festival 2016: QUAKER OATHS

by Elizabeth Stoddard

Writer/director Louisiana Kreutz’s Quaker Oaths is a rare thing — a road-trip divorce comedy. The charming movie, largely filmed in Austin and surrounding areas, premiered during Austin Film Festival.

Joe (Alex Dobrenko, Arlo & Julie) and Emily (Fede Rangel) are long separated after her departure from Texas for medical school; he stayed and began an elementary school teaching career, fraught with all that entails. Five years later, Emily returns to town, affianced to Mikey (Pete Dahlberg), an easy-going fellow who invented unicycle football.

The couple had a Quaker wedding ceremony, which means all attendees signed Emily and Joe’s wedding certificate. Before they divorce, her mom insists, they must get all those people to agree to their split and cross out their names. This is the highly original concept for Kreutz’s first full-length narrative feature. The director previously worked on the documentary 61 Bullets (which played AFF in 2014), about the man accused of killing Huey Long.

Kreutz imbues Quaker Oaths with a community feel, from the large supporting cast (including the director’s boyfriend Dahlberg, as well as her young cousin in a small role) to the theme of a community supporting this couple in their marriage. Their family and friends are unique, quirky personalities.

Joe and Emily have their own quirks: Emily has panic attacks under pressure and Joe rarely speaks up for himself. Rangel and Dobrenko share a spark onscreen as these characters, whether the couple is relating how they first met or discussing their current situation. Their connection is obvious to the viewer, especially as they continue to wake up cuddling when made to share a bed.

Still, the ending isn’t completely predictable… you have a sense how things could possibly play out, but Kreutz’s script throws in a curveball or two amidst the pair’s travels. Quaker Oaths is winning in its goofiness, with a premise that is cute without being “cutesy.” It’s also quite funny.

View the trailer:

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