TCFF Indie Film Review: SOLD OUT (2021)

I love music-themed movies, so I was excited to see SOLD OUT. Somehow I did not realize the Minnesota-connection until I started watching this movie, which opens with a snowy Minneapolis skyline. Strangely-enough, I warmed up to this movie right away. It centers on a down-on-his-luck construction worker John (Sam Bardwell) who wants to pursue his musical dreams as a singer/songwriter. We first meet John in marriage therapy with his wife who clearly isn’t too happy about her husband’s idea of becoming a musician. Later on we meet freelance talent scout Kat (Kelsey McMahon) who’s having a moment as the rock band Lincoln 8 she discovered just had a breakthrough. They’re playing to a sold-out crowd at First Avenue, a major Twin Cities landmark, and getting multiple offers.  The scene of the band playing on stage is beautifully-shot and it’s even more fun for me to watch as I actually knew a couple of the actors in the band – Matt Bailey (looking every inch a rock star as the lead singer) and Alex Galick as the keyboardist.

Sam Bardwell

John and Kat end up meeting by chance at a bar, when he overhears that she is a talent scout. John takes a chance and gives his CD to Kat to listen to, which leads to Kat taking him under her wing to help him realize his potential. I usually enjoy music-themed dramas like Begin Again, Sing Street, Once, etc. and this one has a similar vibe. The road-movie aspect as John and Kat go on the road together gives a chance for the two main characters to connect, plus it also showcases some really cool MN Wintry scenes. There’s a memorable scene right in the middle of a frozen lake at sunrise that could totally be the film’s poster!

Frozen Lake scene

It’s always important for films about music to have memorable musical sequences in them (on stage or otherwise) and there are a few here. I like the scene where John does a duet of Amazing Grace with Kat’s dad in the kitchen. It’s such a lovely, intimate moment. I love that the film shows the process, struggles and sacrifices that one has to make to pursue one’s dreams, even if it seems out of reach. Director Tim Dahlseid, is quite impressive in his feature film debut, ably balancing the music, drama and romantic aspects. I also commend Susan Brightbill (who’s written a TV movie called Holiday Hearts) for penning a compelling script with a complex woman at the center. There is a lot of layers to the story in terms of who Kat really is–there’s really a lot for a talented performer to dig into.

Kelsey McMahon

Which brings me to Kelsey McMahon (a MN-based actress currently studying at the prestigious Juilliard school). I’m so impressed with her performance and she is very much the heart and soul of the movie. I like her right from the moment I saw her walking to First Avenue with her torn jeans and moto leather jacket. She doesn’t just look cool, she IS cool! She reminds me a bit of Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family in terms of her no-nonsense attitude and genuine spunk. I hope to see more of her in the future, can’t wait for Hollywood to discover such talent! Both she and Sam Bardwell have such a good voice, which makes the characters even more believable. I really enjoy this film that I’m willing to overlook certain issues, such as pacing and unconvincing acting (by a couple of the supporting roles).

Overall it’s a truly charming, heartfelt indie film that proves once again that a good story and great performances can elevate a film no matter how small the budget. I have to commend the filmmakers for crafting such an emotionally-moving finale… it’s a perfect ending to both John and Kat’s journey that feels hopeful, yet realistic.

4/5 stars

SOLD OUT is now available to rent on AMAZON PRIME


12 thoughts on “TCFF Indie Film Review: SOLD OUT (2021)

        1. Hello Tim! How kind of you to leave a comment here on my blog. I really enjoyed SOLD OUT, glad to see Sam Bardwell is nominated for TCFF award. Kelsey McMahon is excellent as well.

  1. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 40 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

  2. Vitali Gueron

    This is a great review, Ruth! I also loved SOLD OUT, which also sold out at TCFF (rush line only). Also I got to meet Sam Bardwell and Kelsey McMahon, both of whom are really nice and down to earth in real life. I’m so happy for Sam and Kelsey, as well as Tim Dahlseid and Susan Brightbill that Amazon picked up the movie for distribution on its streaming platform. The more exposure it gets, the better.

    1. Thank you Vitali Gueron for sharing your thoughts! It’s very kind of you to take the time and do that. I’m so glad you were able to meet Sam and Kelsey. They are amazing people in real life. One of our goals was to create a safe set with kind, good people (including the crew). I feel that we suceeded and are so blessed and grateful to all involved. We hope to do right by you on the next one.

  3. PrairieGirl

    Hey Flixy, so glad you reviewed this movie so I got a heads up to watch! Saw it yesterday and LOVE that it’s filmed in MN in the winter. And the scene with car on the frozen lake with John and Kat having so much fun is spectacular. I liked recognizing several locations such as the historic Wayzata train station John was in when he left Kat. All around a really nice film.

    1. Hi Becky! Glad you saw this one. Yes, MN winter can be beautiful and even charming, I love how it’s being showcased here and that frozen lake scene is such a highlight!

  4. Stephen Berthold

    Great movie but sad. i had the feeling the actors were not acting but reliving their lives. It did not feel like a fantasy but something very true to life. I would love to know how the author got their source material and who she (he) based their story on.

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