The Internet can be a really nasty place. It’s a communication web, a medium of expression that can give its users unimaginable power. And where there are perks, the cons follow. Quite recently, viral images and videos have been instrumental in ruining many lives. It’s a new kind of threat that we aren’t quite ready to deal with. John Pollono’s Small Engine Repair perfectly plots millennial problems in the lives of three friends who didn’t grow up dealing with such affairs. While their retorts are pretty rural, how they adapt and transform as per the situation is quite commendable.
Small Engine Repair is based on a theatrical play of the same name written by playwright John Pollono. He takes charge of the visual medium and writes and directs the film based on his play. John also plays the lead along with actors Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham, who take the narrative to another level.
A family man, Frank Romanoski (John Pollono), runs a small engine repair shop in Manch-Vegas (Manchester). Frank works hard to support his daughter, Crystal, while his demanding wife, Karen Delgado, stays away from the family. Due to a conflicted childhood, Frank has anger issues, like his late abusive father. He often ends up in correctional facilities for beating strangers with whom his toxic wife, Karen, mingles. The film begins as Frank comes out of the Hillsborough correctional facility and calls his high school pal, Terrance Swaino (Jon Bernthal), to meet him in his shop. In Frank’s absence, Swaino and Packie Hanrahan (Shea Whigham) were looking after Crystal. As Frank arrives home, Swaino hands over Crystal to Frank, but she cries in his arms. The incident compels Frank to clean and straighten his life.
A few years later, Crystal insists on going to UCLA for further studies. Frank is hesitant but agrees for her daughter’s happiness. Later, Swaino and Packie pay them a visit on Christmas Eve, and Crystal cheerfully informs her beloved uncles about her college acceptance at UCLA. The friends go out to celebrate while Crystal’s mother, Karen, arrives in town and takes her daughter shopping. In a night bar, Frank, Swaino, and Packie involve themselves in a bar fight, and in the heat of the moment, Frank loses his temper. Suddenly, Crystal arrives and loudly shouts to stop Frank from killing the person. Back to his senses, Frank blames his lousy buddies, Swaino and Packie, for always creating a mess. In anger, he cuts all ties with them and moves out with Crystal.
3 months later, after Crystal moves to college, a lonely Frank invites Swaino and Packie to his shop to reconcile their friendship. While Swaino and Packie enjoy the party, Frank makes suspicious calls to a stranger that add a thrill to the narrative. To whom is Frank talking? What is he planning to do?
‘Small Engine Repair’ Ending Explained
When Packie curiously inquired about Frank’s suspicious calls, Frank finally told them that he had invited a drug dealer to supply them some substance to enlighten their reunion. However, their drug dealer wasn’t a professional peddler but a rookie 19-year-old college student, Chad Walker, who sold drugs to earn an extra income. As Chad arrived at Frank’s shop, Frank persuaded Chad to stay for a few drinks. While Chad quickly got accustomed to Swaino and Packie, Frank walked away for a while.
Frank had been receiving constant messages and calls from Karen. She impatiently inquired about their daughter, Crystal, who hadn’t been receiving Karen’s call.
In Frank’s absence, Chad told Swaino and Packie a story about a girl he met on Instagram who sent him exposed pictures. For his amusement, Chad sent those pictures to his mates and showed them to Swaino and Packie. Later, he revealed that the girl tried to kill herself out of embarrassment, but Chad’s father, who is the owner of the largest law firm in Boston, saved his life.
When Frank arrived, he inexplicably asked Chad about the story he’d been telling his friends. In an argument, Chad discovered that Frank’s daughter’s name is Crystal, whose exposed pictures he sent to his buddies. Chad tried to run away, but Frank hit Chad with a wrench. Frank finally revealed that Chad Walker had ruined his daughter’s life, who had been in a coma for two weeks. After the photos got viral, Crystal tried to swallow some pills that damaged her brain cells. Frank held himself equally responsible for the tragedy, but his toxic masculinity and temper revealed that he had planned to get rid of Chad Walker forever.
Frank decided to shoot Chad and dispose of his body and thus needed his friends’ help and support to commit the perfect crime. While Packie jumped on the ride without an argument, Swaino hesitated. Frank tried to shoot Chad when suddenly Swaino and Packie remembered the Instagram photo Chad had uploaded and tagged Frank’s shop. They were in a fix.
The three friends argued crazily when a fourth person arrived to amplify the drama. Karen visited Frank’s shop, and inevitably they had to reveal the whole story. In anger, Karen punched Chad and later stopped Frank from turning himself in. The trio relied on the smartest guy in the lot, Packie, for some divine advice. Packie underlined, “He ruined her life with a picture,” while stoned. The fact gave an extremely well-knitted idea to Swaino. In the end, Swaino and the group clicked an embarrassing picture of Chad with Packie’s private parts. They threatened Chad to viral the image on social platforms if he ever thought of revealing the night’s events to the police or his rich and powerful dad.
Chad got paranoid about his pretty-boy image and thus pledged to seal his mouth. After the necessary confirmation, Frank let the boy go. The following day, Frank, Swaino, Packie, and Karen attended Crystal at the hospital. Frank whispered in her ears that her family was there with her. Feeling the warmth of her extended family around her, Crystal moved her fingers and embraced Frank’s hand. Probably, she came out of the coma, and the movie ended on a happy note.
A Note on Frank Romanoski (John Pollono)
Theatre has been considered a divine sanctuary where the most intricate characters are weaved. Following the legacy, John Pollono carves well-chiseled layered characters to supplement the themes of his narrative.
At one point in the film, Packie chanted that Frank had an uncanny desire to fix things. He had an imperfect childhood, and his abusive father left a void in his youth. Frank spent his life fixing things and thus ended up running an engine repair shop, where, as evident, he fixes things. A similar layer followed in his relationship where he got infatuated with toxic and broken souls like Karen. According to Swaino and Packie, Frank didn’t think he could be of value in a relationship unless it was broken and he could fix it. For his toxic wife, Karen, she was in pieces.
However, being a mechanic, Frank believed that violence was the only approach to fix things in life (or as he learned from his late father). Whether it’s Karen’s flirtatious relationship or the perpetrator of her daughter, Chad. Small Engine Repair became a sacred journey for Frank that taught him other ways to deal with an issue. One couldn’t just end up hitting things that they don’t understand. They need to take a look at it from all sides before taking drastic measures. Frank, Swaino, and Packie, the rowdy guys from a rural house, inherently didn’t understand the internet culture. But in the end, they adapted to the situation, which is the best instinct of being a human. We have the power to adjust and make the right choices in life.
Small Engine Repair is a 2021 drama-comedy film directed and written by John Pollono. It is based on the stage play of the same name, written by John. He plays the lead in the movie and shares the screen with Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham.