"Three Days of Rain" is a low-budget, low-tech, often highly emotional indie drama set during a three-day deluge in Cleveland. Because of the rain and the sad lives we see, it's often a melancholy experience, but "Rain" does introduce us -- in blue-tinted, storm-drenched scenes -- to several dozen interesting, well-acted characters and a gifted new writer-director, Michael Meredith.
The movie weaves six updated Anton Chekhov stories through a modern ensemble script in the "Short Cuts"/"Magnolia" mode, with a radio DJ spinning smooth jazz while the characters careen toward happy or miserable endings.
The six tales are studies in desperation, conflict and loss. They include stories of a junkie mother (Merle Kennedy), a bereaved cabdriver (Don Meredith), a persecuted railroad employee (Joey Bilow), a mismatched couple (Erick Avari and Maggi Walker) whose marital crisis is triggered by a doggy bag full of chocolate mousse, a frantic tile maker (Michael Santoro) and an old drunk (Peter Falk) putting the squeeze on his son.
Blues and melancholy are the predominant keys here, but "Rain" is also sometimes surprisingly funny. As with two other recent ensemble works, "Crash" and "Nine Lives," the actors make this one shine. As the alcoholic, Falk gives a brilliant portrayal of shame-faced cunning and regret, and there's an electrifying bit by Blythe Danner as a self-pitying woman colliding with the grieving cabdriver.