"Three Days of Rain" is a low-budget, low-tech, often highly emotional indie drama set during a three-day deluge in Cleveland. Because of the rain and the sad lives we see, it's often a melancholy experience, but "Rain" does introduce us -- in blue-tinted, storm-drenched scenes -- to several dozen interesting, well-acted characters and a gifted new writer-director, Michael Meredith.
The movie weaves six updated Anton Chekhov stories through a modern ensemble script in the "Short Cuts"/"Magnolia" mode, with a radio DJ spinning smooth jazz while the characters careen toward happy or miserable endings.
The six tales are studies in desperation, conflict and loss. They include stories of a junkie mother (Merle Kennedy), a bereaved cabdriver (Don Meredith), a persecuted railroad employee (Joey Bilow), a mismatched couple (Erick Avari and Maggi Walker) whose marital crisis is triggered by a doggy bag full of chocolate mousse, a frantic tile maker (Michael Santoro) and an old drunk (Peter Falk) putting the squeeze on his son.
Blues and melancholy are the predominant keys here, but "Rain" is also sometimes surprisingly funny. As with two other recent ensemble works, "Crash" and "Nine Lives," the actors make this one shine. As the alcoholic, Falk gives a brilliant portrayal of shame-faced cunning and regret, and there's an electrifying bit by Blythe Danner as a self-pitying woman colliding with the grieving cabdriver.
The actor who plays the driver, Don Meredith, is both the father of writer-director Meredith and the affable ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback "Dandy Don," who was part of an old "Monday Night Football" broadcasting team. He's acted before on TV, of course ("Undercover With the KKK"), but rarely in this kind of fine-spun, understated role.
"Three Days of Rain" may be a lesser movie than "Crash" or "Nine Lives," but it's also a Chekhovian movie that's closer to the master's mood than many -- a jazzy, rainy day film that makes serious and amusing points about life and people in the midst of its downpour.
'Three Days of Rain'
MPAA rating: Unrated
A Rogue Arts release. Writer-director Michael Meredith. Producers Bill Stockton, Robert Casserly. Director of photography Cynthia Pusheck. Editors Peter Pryzgodda, Sabine Hoffman. Running time 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Exclusively at Laemmle's Fairfax Cinemas, 7907 Beverly Blvd. at Fairfax Avenue (323) 655-4010.
Note: Peter Falk and director Michael Meredith are scheduled to attend the 7:15 p.m. Friday screening and participate in a Q&A; immediately afterward.