Mighty Oak is a heartfelt story about the loss of a loved one and the passion for community and music. Set in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego, the film follows the trouble life of Oak Scoggins, a 10 year old guitar prodigy. He is introduced to a guitar of a former local music legend that tragically died in a car accident 10 years prior. Gina Jackson the sister of the former local legend, hears Oak play on her brother’s old guitar, and comes to the realization that Oak is the reincarnation of her brother’s soul. As former band manager, Gina decides to get the old band back together and presents Oak as their new front man.
The film focuses on the struggles people go through when dealing with grief, and also takes a surface level peak into drug addiction. The relationship between Gina and Oak is sweet and endearing and desperately tries to play at the heart strings throughout the 102 minute run time of the film. The rest of the relationships in the movie feel too one-dimensional and fall flat of seeming genuine. There’s a strange facade of fake-ness in the way people interact with each other in the film that drags the story’s intent through the mud. This partnered with a noticeably low budget look, makes the film seem silly and staged. The film starts out in the past and then shows the life changing car-wreck that sets the rest of the story in motion. This scene that’s supposed to instill pain and sadness made me laugh out loud because of how low budget and bad it looked. They didn’t even show a car wreck, they just had sounds, and what appeared to be handfuls of glass being thrown on the side of the road in front of headlights. Then there was the decision to add fake fire FX onto the lower half of the screen which to me destroyed all credibility to the moment. Once this scene ended, I checked my watch and I still had about 90min left to go.
I genuinely wanted to like this film because I live in San Diego and I spend a lot of time in the Ocean Beach neighborhood. However, the film suffers from a noticeably low budget and feels like a made for TV Lifetime movie. The production quality is pretty lack luster and the film takes place in like 3 locations total. I just wish there had been more care taken into consideration when deciding the locations of scenes. Even though they say they’re in Ocean Beach throughout the film, the coffee shop where most of the film takes place isn’t even near Ocean Beach and you can clearly see neighborhood signs that contradict the story. There are interjecting scenes throughout the film that show contrasting emotions that ruin the credibility of what the story teller was going for. The scenes involving Oak’s mother being arrested at the Tijuana & US Border, intercutting with Oak’s first live show with the band was jarring and overdramatic. Every interaction felt like a first draft of a script, and nothing felt real. There are a few key moments with Gina & Oak that might make your eyes a little watery and it was this relationship that was the only one that felt believable.
I think that Tommy Ragen (Oak Scoggins) had the best performance in the film. A lot of emotional weight was put on his shoulders for his character and I think he did a great job transforming into his role. He definitely carries the film with his charm and sweetness. I wouldn’t be surprised if he begins to pop up in more films or tv shows. Unfortunately, the rest of the film wasn’t set up enough for him to shine through. This film might speak to some people, but it fell completely flat for me.