The Scent of Rain and Lightning
dir. Blake Robbins
dir. Blake Robbins
Adapted from the novel by Nancy Pickard of the same name, Robbins' film tells the story of the Linder family in the plains of Oklahoma. When Jody Linder (Maika Monroe) learns that the man who killed her parents is being released from jail, she begins to discover the darker secrets in her family's history that have caused violence and heartbreak for a generation. While I think some of the casting makes the intertwined flashbacks confusing (several of the characters look very similar) and the coloring of the film is distractingly desaturated, the narrative structure is very impressive and suspenseful and the film has some great dramatic performances.
dir. Brett Haley
The Hero tells the story of aging Western star Lee Hayden, played by real Western legend Sam Elliott, as he deals with a cancer diagnosis and tries to land one last respectable role outside of his usual barbecue sauce commercial voice overs. It's a great concept and inspired casting, but after the first third it begins to gloss over the specifics of Hayden's situation and it becomes a generic, if well done, story of an older man finding romance with a young woman. The cast, however, is truly excellent, with Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, and Nick Offerman playing the love interest, daughter, and drug dealer friend respectively. Elliott steals the show and delivers a potential career best performance; I challenge anyone to not crack during Hayden's heartbreaking audition for a role in a young adult sci-fi film. Full review here.
League of Exotique Dancers
dir. Rama Rau
This documentary chronicling the histories of some of the legends of burlesque dancing was one of my favorite films of the festival. It is fun, fascinating, and often hilarious as it explores the lives of these charming women. Rarely has a film so boisterous had such a poignant portrayal of aging gracefully! See my full review here.
The Lost City of Z
dir. James Gray
While I suspect the real-life tale of Percy Fawcett, English explorer who repeatedly (obsessively) searched for an ancient city in the jungles of Bolivia, works better in the novel from which it is adapted, the film examines a fascinating and surprisingly timely historic story. Full review here.
dir. Demetri Martin
Comedian Demetri Martin's directorial debut will inevitably find itself compared to Garden State as it examines the way a young man (played by Martin) grieves for his mother and reforms his relationship with his father. There are some very clever bits of storytelling and editing, and the story is surprisingly earnest in its execution. While I would've liked a better balance between the parallel stories of Dean and his father (the underused Kevin Cline), this shows promise for Martin's future endeavors. Full review here.
dir. Terry George
The Promise examines the Armenian genocide by the Turkish army during World War I, and a love triangle that attempts to weather it. Oscar Isaac plays Mikael, an Armenian medical student who is swept up as Turkey joins the war and works to save his family and romantic interest, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon). On the other side of the triangle is Chris Myers (Christian Bale), an American journalist who is trying to tell the world of the genocide being perpetrated. The film manages to show some of the most horrific actions in history without drowning in melodrama; it is a solid and worthwhile movie that takes a look at an oft-overlooked tragedy in modern history.