Dave White
Ballast Review

Dave's Rating:

5.0

...beautiful looking

Who's In It: Michael J. Smith, Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs

The Basics: It's winter in the rural, economically depressed Mississippi delta, which translates to cold temperatures, muddy ground, rain and nothing but gray light all day, every day. Trapped in this cheery environment are an African-American mother and son struggling to subsist on Hamburger Helper made without meat. The boy's father recently committed suicide and the man's identical twin brother, who lives next door, has fallen into silent depression and also tries to kill himself in the movie's opening moments. What happens next is as moody and bleak and still strangely hopeful a film set at Christmas time as anything you've ever seen.

What's The Deal: I'll just be blunt here. I have no idea who's going to want to see this really amazing movie except for fans of the type of indie cinema that's one step away from being documentary. The kind where non-actors are employed, real locations commandeered for a week, a monosyllabic approach to dialogue makes for long silences and understated everything is the rule of the day. It's shot like landscape art photography you'd see in a gallery, emotionally accurate and terrifyingly edging close to hopelessness--until small details emerge and play out that begin to make the movie's title more and more clear and you're eventually allowed to leave the theater less inclined to go home and swallow a bottle of pills like the film's unseen dead father. I think this kind of movie is mind-blowingly great. You, however, (and there's no judgment in this statement) might not want to deal with it.

Why Bother: The director of this movie isn't a poor, rural African-American himself, and he wisely stays specific to these characters, rather than take a generalized stance about "how life is" for a group of people he can only observe. So in one sense, this movie isn't even about its own plot, but about the ideas the audience already brings to the types of characters on display. I know, this is starting to sound like film class. So ignore what I just said. Go see it because in its wide open spaces of nothingness and silence there's also a heart and a gentle movement in the direction toward goodness.

Cinematography Junkie Alert: You budding directors of photography will want to check this out too because it's shot entirely using natural winter light and winds up being one of the most beautiful-looking movies I've seen all year.

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