I’ve seen 45365, an observational documentary about Sydney, Ohio, compared both to a Normal Rockwell painting (on IMDB message boards) and to American Graffiti. But I think that both of these comparisons place too much weight on what is essentially a sentimental series of postcard glimpses of the hometown of the filmmakers, Bill Ross and Turner Ross. Life in Sydney, a small city near Dayton, includes 4-H clubs, judge’s races, high school football, church services, barbershop conversations, and nights at the local bar. These activities are woven together, in part, through the voices of a group of local DJs who play “all the hits” (most of which are well more than twenty years old). In other cases, young men struggle to control their drinking and drug abuse, and in some cases find themselves, moving in and out of prison.
The carefully composed shots of manicured lawns and snow-covered sidewalks complete the portrait, but it’s difficult to tell whether the filmmakers are suggesting that this version of small-town life is eternal, as implied by the passage of seasons, or something a little bleaker. The observations never quite added up for me, but given the multiple narrative strands within the film, the filmmakers did an excellent job of keeping the stories moving. In addition, the filmmakers seem to be genuinely fond of their community and are generally content to observe as the stories of the local residents unfold. And as the Spout capsule review observes, 45365 leaves some room to interpret the ambiguities and overlapping stories that compose this small, quiet city in Ohio.