Talking too much about this film would rob you of your opportunity to decide what it is about and what is real or isn’t for yourself. Suffice to say that it will make you think, and you’ll either love or hate the resolution.
I still haven’t decided which way I feel. Regardless of how I resolve that point, the trip it took me on was quiet but compelling. I never felt bored, only driven to find out what was happening and what would happen. It’s ultimately what did happen that leaves me with open questions about how I feel about the film as a whole. I’m not sure if that is because of my personal desire of what I was expecting or simply a choice on the director’s part that I was less comfortable with. The fact that I’m still struggling with the ending tells me the film had impact.
Shannon portrays a man with doubts and fears, but a strong sense of himself and what he cares about. The performance is complex as the explanations for his specific actions are delayed till late in the film. While Nichols, the director and writer, is asking you to trust him, it is really Shannon that makes it happen with his creation of a man on unsure ground.
As his wife, Jessica Chastain makes her 3rd appearance in this blog (previously in The Help, Coriolanus, and soon in Tree of Life). One very busy actress she’s been. While all the performances have a somewhat similar substance, they are all accessible and believable. I’ve no idea if she’ll manage to pick such noticed films again in the coming year, but someone was watching out for her when these all spun up their productions. Though none of her entries were award worthy, in my opinion, she certainly managed to pick up a bit of the glitter and she deserves to be watched in the coming years. She has that ineffable quality of vulnerability and quiet strength as well as an effortless way about her performances that very few performers achieve. Now she just needs a part with a bit more meat to chew on.
It’s also worth noting that the cinematography is amazing. It captures the open plains and cramped spaces equally well. The reality is stark, but not obviously washed out and no sequence is made to appear less than 100% real.
With this movie as a sample of what Nichols is capable of as as story teller and director, I’d certainly keep an eye on him for future efforts. There is an honesty and a confidence in this movie that is difficult to achieve. However, there is a rough, sophomoric aspect as well. In a way, that aspect adds to the film, but it also shows me he has a little bit to go in his creative process. I’d very much like to see what he could do with someone else’s script as a director.