Burned-out skateboarder Jesse Sorensen (Jesse Gay) loses his sponsorship with DieNasty Skateboards after a decade of living extravagantly and is forced to move back into his old bedroom at his elderly grandmother's (Ellen Trent) house, broke and without a car.
Jesse discovers that his 17-year-old niece, Samantha (Corsica Wilson), already crashing with Nana, is headed down the same hard-partying path that led him astray. Now Jesse is faced with the responsibility of growing up, keeping his niece out of trouble and becoming a positive role model in his young son’s life in the locally produced film “Veer!”
Directed by Jacksonville native Patrick Barry, “Veer!” is a gritty drama with tender moments throughout. Co-written by Barry and Gay, “Veer!” is adapted from a short film of the same name, based on Gay’s real-life experiences as a skateboarder. Gay is a natural, playing the character in an environment of skaters and seedy bars.
Barry’s effective use of contrast in black-and-white imagery, high-definition color and classic 8mm film during skateboard sequences give the whole thing a documentary feel.
Bryan Carson, who plays Jesse’s son, is funny, honest and comfortable in front of the camera. As Samantha, Wilson delivers another standout emotional performance.
When Jesse sees Samantha donning a blonde wig in a bar and being hit on by one of his peers, he decides to intervene, to prevent her from falling into the same patterns with the people who did him wrong.
Jesse’s secret late-night visits to his son through a bedroom window — to talk and sneak in ice cream — are moving.
Most of his time and effort is spent building strong relationships with his Nana, niece and son, but Jesse also starts a romance with Paige (Erin Nicole Cline), a bartender.
A new addition to Jesse’s old skate team gaining fame in the skating world, Strazz (James Nguyen) is criticized for his “squeaky clean” image that's atypical of professional skateboarders. His merchandise is sold at big-box retailers, making him a sellout in the minds of certain skaters. Strazz is an obvious foil to Jesse and highlights his unwillingness to conform. Nguyen’s performance comes across as one-dimensional compared to Gay's. What Strazz lacks in soul Jesse more than makes up for in his efforts to be a better man.
The film’s locales will be nothing new to those familiar with Downtown Jacksonville. Jesse skates under bridges and bombs a parking garage with his friends, and the film features a beautiful shot of Jesse skating down the Main Street Bridge. In one of the more touching moments, he skates through the old abandoned library with his son in tow on a scooter.
Scenes were also shot on location at legendary Kona Skatepark, famous for its downhill snake run.
From the hardcore sound of Powerball to the indie-rock sound of Crash the Satellites to the acoustic-driven crooning of Christina Wagner, the soundtrack features acts with Northeast Florida ties and complements the rough aesthetic of the film. Nathan Matthew David composed the original score.
“Veer!” — which has been featured at the Jacksonville Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Filmshift Festival and St. Augustine Film Festival — won the “Skate or Die Award” at the Pollygrind Underground Film Festival.