This was the official website for the 2014 film, Rudderless, starring Billy Crudup and directed by William H. Macy.
Content is from the site's 2014 archived pages, as well as from other outside sources.

Summary: Sam (Billy Crudup), a former high-profile advertising executive, falls apart after the sudden death of his son. Living off the grid on a docked sailboat, he wastes away his days while drowning his pain in alcohol. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son's demo tapes and lyrics, his own child's musical talent is a revelation. Communing with his deceased son's dashed dreams, Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin, a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo form a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives.

Rudderless - Official Trailer
A grieving father in a downward spiral stumbles across a box of his recently deceased son's demo tapes and lyrics. Shocked by the discovery of this unknown talent, he forms a band in the hope of finding some catharsis. Starring Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman, Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne and Directed by William H. Macy










A Mournful Duet With the Past

CreditJ.R. Cooke/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Anton Yelchin, left, and Billy Crudup, as band mates.

By Stephen Holden Oct. 16, 2014 /

“Rudderless,” the misbegotten directorial debut of William H. Macy, is so dishonest, manipulative and ultimately infuriating that it never recovers after its bombshell revelation two-thirds of the way into the movie. Not that its coyly withheld disclosure is all that unexpected. What is surprising is that Mr. Macy, who wrote the screenplay with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison and plays the owner of tavern, didn’t know better than to be so coy.

This story of grief, recovery and delayed reckoning after a campus massacre at the fictional Central Plains State University, has a taut lead performance by Billy Crudup as Sam, the embittered, divorced father of Josh (Miles Heizer), one of the dead students.

The movie doesn’t show the shootings, which Sam learns about from a live television report while waiting for Josh to join him for lunch. After cursorily observing the ensuing media frenzy, the movie leaps ahead two years to find Sam working as a house painter. Once a hotshot adman, he has abandoned his career to hide out on a boat, where he seethes with rage and despair and drowns his sorrows in booze.

In a cache of his son’s belongings, Sam discovers Josh’s homemade CDs. Impulsively, he teaches himself one of the songs and performs it as his own at an open mike at a local hangout. The song attracts the attention of Quentin (Anton Yelchin), a socially awkward young musician who pesters his way into Sam’s life. He pressures the reluctant Sam to form a band named Rudderless to perform “his” songs, which he neglects to credit as the work of his son. Playing Quentin in his whiny Matthew Broderick mode, Mr. Yelchin overacts, and his performance quickly curdles.

So does the movie, whose baldfaced deviousness robs it of credibility and emotional truth.
“Rudderless” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for strong language.



William H. Macy debuts as film director in ‘Rudderless’


You’d think that William H. Macy would have made his feature directorial debut long ago. After all, his theater background as an actor’s actor and his Mamet affinity are well known, and he had his name-making breakout nearly two decades ago with “Fargo” and “Boogie Nights.” A bit later than expected, then, comes “Rudderless” (2014), a Sundance entry that bypassed a Boston opening. Billy Crudup plays Sam, an agreeably can-do ad exec devastated by the sudden death of his college-age son. Ragged and remote, Sam is off playing recluse on his tied-up boat when his ex (Felicity Huffman, Macy’s wife) comes calling, their son’s old guitar and CD demos in tow. Sam is stunned to realize just how musically gifted his boy was and he movingly starts plucking out the tunes in a local bar. (Macy humbly cameos as proprietor; Laurence Fishburne and Selena Gomez get the showier supporting roles.) Sam quickly catches the attention of Quentin (Anton Yelchin), an awkward young aspiring rocker who persuades him, against his better judgment, to join him in an unlikely band. But for all the newfound purpose and joy the venture gives them, there’s an inescapable sense that sooner or later the music’s source has to become an issue. Crudup’s internalized performance helps fuel the feeling. Is Sam doing this as a tribute? As another form of denial? As some achingly bittersweet, perhaps even morbid vicarious experience? Macy crafts an assured, challenging, frequently surprising film that leaves viewers examining their feelings about the characters well after the fade-out. 







Oct 17, 2014 | Rating: 3/4
Godfrey Cheshire  Top Critic
Contrived or not, the story is put across with pleasing, unpretentious conviction and skill by Macy.

From Tom Hanks to David Chase, it seems there’s a favorite subject for established media types who turn to feature film directing: guys forming a rock band. The latest to pursue this beguiling if unoriginal path is actor William H. Macy, who turns out a winning, well-crafted musical drama in “Rudderless.”

Macy has also chosen to take up what one critic recently labeled the most overworked of current dramatic premises: people recovering from the death of a loved one. In this case, the aggrieved character is a dad who eventually calls himself Sam (Billy Crudup). We start out seeing his college-age son, Josh (Miles Hetzer), recording some demos of songs he’s written. Then there’s a shooting at the college Josh attends and suddenly the boy is dead. His father and the rest of his family, needless to say, are thunderstruck.

Two years later, Sam is living solo on a sailboat, earning money as a house painter and drinking a lot. The latter pursuit leads him to a bar that has an open mike night where locals perform their own tunes (all very creditable compositions and performances, incidentally). One night Sam has a wild idea and gets up and performs a song of Josh’s. The performance not only gets a good reaction, it also wins him a fan.

The young guy who follows him out of the bar, Quentin (Anton Yelchin), seems bowled over by what he’s just heard. He also seems like a young musician needy for various kinds of support, inspiration and creative companionship. Sam, for obvious reasons, is not an easy guy to strike up a friendship with. But Quentin keeps after him, especially regarding the quality of the songs he mysteriously harbors, and, soon enough, Sam is not only playing more, he’s also allowing his young pal to sing and play back-up.

It’s just a hop and a skip from there to forming a band with two other musicians (Ben Kweller, Ryan Dean). When the foursome, which calls itself Rudderless, takes the stage and cuts loose, the crowd’s reaction is euphoric. And well it should be: The songs (credited to Simon Steadman, Charlton Steadman and Fink) are very hooky rockers, and the band’s performance is blistering. Sam, in particular, seems reborn.

This moment comes roughly halfway into the film, and it’s too bad it’s relatively fleeting. The music is so good and the band so credible that this viewer would have enjoyed much more of both. Instead, the film (written by Casey Twenter, Jeff Robison and Macy) continues on its narrative path but grows a bit wobbly with the kinds of second-half contrivances that some indie dramas are prone to. These include plot strands concerning Sam’s relations with a local music store owner (Laurence Fishburne) and feuding with the management of the marina where his boat is docked, his evolving father-son dynamic with Quentin, and a crucial last-act revelation regarding the actual circumstances of his son’s death.

Contrived or not, the story is put across with pleasing, unpretentious conviction and skill by Macy (who has a supporting turn as the manager of the watering hole where Rudderless performs). The performances he elicits from his entire cast are very flavorful and nuanced, with the two leads proving especially impressive. Crudup, a versatile and solid performer in all circumstances, ably conveys Sam’s sorrow and guarded yearning for a new life, while Yelchin gives Quentin an edgy, skittering energy. Both actors are also extremely adept at the musical aspects of their roles.

If this directorial outing was in any sense an audition for the talented Mr. Macy, he should be congratulated on passing it.


Oct 16, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4
Bruce DeMara  Toronto Star  Top Critic

Starring Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin. Co-written and directed by William H. Macy. Opens Friday Oct. 17 at Carlton Cinemas. 105 minutes. 14A.

The opening is sublimely affecting in its simplicity. Driven ad executive dad Sam calls up college student son Josh to help celebrate landing a new client. But when Josh fails to appear, we soon learn he’s never coming home again as the result of yet another random shooting by a deranged gunman.

Two years later, Sam (Billy Crudup) has fallen mightily, living on a sailboat and working as a house painter and using alcohol to dull the pain of his unresolved grief. An awkward young man named Quentin (Anton Yelchin) attaches himself to Sam after hearing him play one of his talented son’s songs during an open mic at a local watering hole. Sam soon finds himself playing in a folk/rock band with three young men even while harbouring a dark secret.

William H. Macy, a wonderfully versatile character actor making his feature film debut, assembles a sterling cast including wife Felicity Huffman as Josh’s grieving mother and Laurence Fishburne as a gruff but affable music store owner. Crudup as Sam and Yelchin as Quentin are superb in their respective roles and the original songs by Eef Barzelay are amazing.

The film is a roller-coaster of emotions and the jolt, when it comes, will send you reeling.


Review: 'Rudderless' a sluggishly paced melodrama

Oct 16, 2014 |
Gary Goldstein  Los Angeles Times Top Critic

Selena Gomez as Kate and Billy Crudup as Sam in "Rudderless." (J.R. Cooke / Samuel Goldwyn Films)

For all its noble intentions and loaded emotions, "Rudderless" proves a largely hollow, uninvolving affair. Actor William H. Macy, making his feature directing debut, never quite finds his rhythm here. The result is a sluggishly paced melodrama that inches toward its requisite catharsis.

Billy Crudup stars as Noah, a seemingly successful ad man whose college-age son, Josh (Miles Heizer), dies in what's reported as a campus shooting. Two years later, Noah's a boorish mess: living alone on a sailboat, painting houses and drinking to excess.

Heading for the abyss, Noah finds himself at a bar's open-mike night singing one of several folk-rock songs penned by his late son. He's spotted there by Quentin (Anton Yelchin), an insecure young musician who persuades Noah to form a band. Guess what? They do. And it's called Rudderless after Noah's boat life — but really after, well, Noah.

That Rudderless becomes an unlikely hit among the townies proves good news-bad news for Noah: It gives him purpose, yet he must hide that his son — and not he — wrote the band's favorite songs. (Though these tunes are a bit underwhelming, the fine performing of them brings some welcome warmth and energy.)

Noah's conundrum is doubled by a third-act revelation that changes the face of the narrative, or at least our perception of it. But by then, this tough piece of news feels more like a left-field device than a well-constructed plot point.

Crudup is strong as the anguished Noah, but his character lacks sufficient dimension and back story. Felicity Huffman pops in and out as Noah's ex-wife, but their former marriage is also short on context. Laurence Fishburne's retiring music store owner feels decidedly wedged-in. Macy, who also co-wrote the film with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, appears in a small role.

Skillfully directed by William H. Macy, "Rudderless" is one of those small independent films that it's a privilege to discover

Dec 8, 2014 | Rating: 4/5
Michael A. Smith  MediaMikes
Sam (Crudup) is a hot shot advertising exec who has just landed a major deal. He excitedly calls his son, Josh (Miles Heizer) and invites him to come celebrate with him. Tragically, Josh never shows up. His son gone, Sam crawls into a bottle. He stumbles across an assortment of original songs that Josh had written and, in an attempt to understand the son he lost, Sam begins to learn each one. After playing one of the songs at an open mic night he attracts the attention of Quentin (Yelchin) a young musician intrigued by the song. They form a band but soon discover that music, like life, is unpredictable.

Skillfully directed by William H. Macy, “Rudderless” is one of those small independent films that it’s a privilege to discover. The cast, led by Crudup, does a fine job of conveying the ups and downs of life and how people deal with them. Yelchin is equally good, giving a layered and nuanced performance that is miles away from the earnest Ensign Chekov he plays in the “Star Trek” films.

Supporting work by Laurence Fishburne, Selena Gomez and director Macy keep the film moving and the original songs are both well written and memorable. The script, which Macy worked on with writers Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, hits all the right notes and packs an emotional wallop you never see coming. Director Macy keeps the story moving and never allows the emotions to become forced, hitting a home run with his feature film directorial debut.

“Rudderless” is currently available now on Digital HD and VOD.





**** Jim Hunter  Super Reviewer
A father discovers a box of tapes and joins a band which covers his dead son's songs. With a soaring, remarkable soundtrack, fantastic, touching performances by the whole cast, and an almost unmatched story, William H. Macy's directorial debut is a tour de force. The first act is a compelling story about recovery, and the second act explores the relationship between Sam, Billy Crudup's grieving father, and Quentin, Anton Yelchin's young, insecure musician, but it's the third act that turns the entire story on its head in a reveal that's both surprising and completely natural. Overall, this indie drama is incredible.


  ***  ½m h  Super Reviewer
I love "music" films and I love Anton Yelchin so I was really looking forward to this. Overall, I did really enjoy the film. But I do have some nitpicks. I know the story is really about Sam (Billy Crudup) and his journey. But I would have liked to see more insight on his son Josh. Especially since the twist reveals him to be the shooter. The movie never really gives us that sense that he is a kid about to go off his rails. If the movie couldn't have given us that insight, then I think it would have been better just making him one of the victim's of some nameless shooter. Secondly, Selena Gomez was the weakest actor of the bunch. I thought her first scene was good, but then when we see her again she was just so over dramatic to me. I didn't totally buy Quentin (Anton Yelchin) being so invested in Sam to the point where he would show up at his home the next day with coffee and doughnuts already wanting to work together. Based off one song he heard. I also didn't care for William H Macy inserting himself into his own film. The movie makes up for it though with really good music and a shining performance by Billy Crudup. It's worth a see.


*** Jesse Ortega Super Reviewer
I look at the film's reaction among people who watched this and I find myself asking if they even watched the same film as I did. It's not that it's bad, because it's not, as it benefits from a great performance by Billy Crudup and a really good soundtrack, but it just didn't hit me on a deeper level. And that's why, I'm assuming, the film was so positively received among people on this site. The film has a little wrinkle to the story that's not commonly done, so that adds a new perspective on a, seemingly, taboo theme to touch on in movies and that is school shootings. I won't spoil the "twist", even it's not really one, because that's one of the good things about this movie. But, admittedly, the film is a little more manipulative when it should've been as subtle as possible.

A character study on what a father does once something like that happens, and this is where the wrinkle to the story comes into play. But the film chooses to go the overly sentimental route. And it doesn't work for me personally. I'd rather just see a story that reflects what actual human beings would do in this situation. Not a fictionalized, movie of the week on Lifetime thing. Don't get me wrong, this film is not that, because I think William H. Macy is a talented director, but if it was handled poorly then it very well could've reached those undesirable levels. It was very close to that. Very close. Again, I'm not speaking about the film's quality at all, I'm just talking about it was close to being poorly handled. And, to be honest, if it wasn't for the soundtrack and Billy Crudup, this would've gotten a much lower rating. Anton Yelchin is good and all, but I don't think he made the movie any better. And Felicity Huffman would've definitely made it better if she got more screen time.

But I get the whole story about Sam connecting to his deceased son through the songs he left behind. It's not terribly inventive, but I get it and it's a decent story. Again, it's elevated by the songs and the lead in the film. In many ways, this is like every one of these films that you've ever seen. Another movie comes to mind with Lou Taylor Pucci and JK Simmons bonding over music. I forget the name, and I reviewed it on here, but it reminds me a LOT of that. So I KNOW I've seen this movie before and it's almost exactly as good as that other one. This one is worth a watch if you ever see it on cable tv and have nothing better to do. I realize that's not exactly a glowing endorsement of the movie, but I could think of worse ways to spend my time. This isn't something you need to go out of your way to see. Unless you love Billy Crudup that much, in that case, go ahead. He's great here, it's a shame the film isn't.


*****Tracy J October 26, 2014
excellent story! Great job!!


Susan C  October 26, 2014
incredible movie, extremely touching and it has an awesome soundtrack


***** Sallye A October 26, 2014
Too many movies today are all special effects and not enough heart. Rudderless is a genuine pull-at-your heartstrings movie. Highly recommended.  


***½ Mark A  October 26, 2014
Rudderless manages to resonate and charm with its enjoyable music and fantastic lead performance from Billy Crudup, despite disappointingly glossing over certain crucial plot elements


***** Linda L October 25, 2014
Excellent movie. Very thought provoking.


***½ Jillian L  October 25, 2014
I was really curious about this. Considering it's William H. Macy's directorial debut and features Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin singing and playing guitar. In terms of the directing part, it's nothing revolutionary, but he did a nice job. As for the singing, they both have nice voices. Actually, the original music for this movie was one of my favorite parts. It's really good. The story is really interesting and heartfelt. Then it gets to this twist. It's unnecessary and doesn't quite fit in, not only with the beginning of this movie, but also in terms of other movies that have tried to tackle the same issue, and did it better. I hope that didn't give it away, but those are my thoughts on that. But I would say it's worth at least one watch.


***½ Jayne U  October 24, 2014
Really enjoyed the story which takes viewers from emotional highs to lowest of lows and back. Editing did nice job of conveying story in under 2-hours and plot never drags.


***½ Adam M October 24, 2014
The music was the best part of this film. Rarely do I want to purchase a movie soundtrack. The film has humor and heart. And uses those ingredients well.


**** Gina M October 23, 2014
I loved this movie! The story was relevant and captivating and the acting was excellent! Loved LOVED the music!


*****Danielle H. Danielle H October 23, 2014
I finally got to watch surprised at how much it truly moved me. I laughed and cried and laughed and cried. The best kind of movie. The characters were real and believable and the story was from a perspective not ever told. LOVED IT!


***** Matt W October 22, 2014
Finally got to see Rudderless last night & it was worth the wait! Such a powerful & emotional film! The movie takes you on emotional ride filled with inspiring music. Jeff Robison & Casey Twenter wrote such an amazing story that will stick with you for the rest of your life & shows how strong a parents love for their child is. I can't wait to see what Jeff & Casey do next! Keep your eyes on these amazing writers on their way to greatness!

***** Tena C October 22, 2014
I thought Rudderless was wonderful-- the script, the acting, and the music!!!!