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dir Kelly Reichardt
scr Jonathan Raymond
prd Elizabeth Cuthrell, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani, David Urrutia
with Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Will Patton, Neal Huff, Zoe Kazan, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux
release US 8.Apr.11, UK 15.Apr.11
A trusting soul: Williams
VENICE FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Reichardt turns her focus on the old West with this evocative drama based on true events. Not only are the characters almost outrageously authentic, but the depiction of the Western frontier is more detailed than we've ever seen.
In the Oregon territory in 1845, three couples are travelling through the unmapped wilderness with their guide Meek (Greenwood), a woolly veteran with an endless stream of colourful stories. Emily (Williams) is more open-minded than her husband (Patton), the group's natural leader. The pregnant Glory (Henderson) is tending to both her husband (Huff) and their pre-teen son (Nelson). And young Thomas (Dano) is trying to assure his wife fearful Millie (Kazan). When they encounter an Indian (Rondeaux), everyone disagrees about whether or not to trust him.
Trust and fear are the two main emotions as the balance of control shifts continually between the characters. Everyone is pretty sure that they shouldn't trust the Indian because of the horror stories they've heard; on the other hand he seems like a relatively nice guy. And maybe he can show them where to find water, which they desperately need. These are the kinds of essentials the characters are dealing with, and it's clearly not what they expected.
Reichert really captures what it must have felt like to venture off the edge of the world in search of a new life. The unmapped Oregon countryside might as well be a moonscape. And the rugged terrain proves a strong test for their wagons, horses and oxen. Not to mention people worn out from months of walking through mountains, rivers and endless deserts. And without much dialog at all, Reichert goes much deeper, examining the paralysing fear that these people feel at every unexpected discovery.
All of them have doubts about both Meek, who isn't delivering as promised, and the Indian, who doesn't speak a word of English. And their dream of an untouched paradise seems to be slipping out of reach as they wander day after day without any sign of hope. So if the ending feels sharply abrupt, at least it leaves us right where Reichert wants us: wondering how we would respond to a harsh, alien landscape that's still full of promise.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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