Following an Irish immigrant carpenter from coastal Queens to the Catskills and beyond,The Builder is an American existential portrait that explores the gulf between the idea of a thing and the thing itself. Having set off to the New York countryside to construct a reproduction of the earliest of American cape houses, the protagonist (Colm O’Leary) finds himself overcome by an inexplicable fatigue. Debts and expectations mount alongside the crudest and most naive of deceptions, that of both self and of family. As the chasm grows the Builder finds himself confronted by the unnerving ambivalence of the world around him.
A subtle, contemplative rendering reminiscent of the films of John Cassavetes and The Dardenne Brothers, The Builder is the first full-length feature directed by R. Alverson, a carpenter and musician from Richmond, VA. It features music by Bon Iver, Gregor Samsa, Pan American, Robert Donne and Spokane (Alverson and co-producer Courtney Bowles’ band, who have released 5 records on Jagjaguwar since 1999). Alverson’s second feature, New Jerusalem, starring Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) and The Builder’s Colm O’Leary, was completed in late winter of 2010.
As a companion to the feature, Jagjaguwar will be offering a collection of songs, Music For The Builder, on the Jagjaguwar web site. This “foundtrack” features new, unreleased and demoed songs from artists like Califone, Luke Temple and Sam Amidon. Amidon offers the first in the series with “Cabin in the Corner,” a faithful rendition of an Irish traditional that features the brother of The Builder’s Colm O’Leary, Eamon, on bozouki and backing vocals. The song’s lyrics — “Don’t care for fine mansions in the earth’s sinking sand/Lord, build me a cabin in the corner of Glory Land” — might serve as a jumping off point for the movie itself.