New American Cinema | 2017 | 108 minutes
Stranger Says: Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) has never made I film haven’t loved and has the distinction of being the only American filmmaker to have her work presented at this year’s Directors Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival (and the only American woman filmmaker at Cannes, period). The film also has Seattle roots in the talented producer and co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini. Based on Peter Rock’s 2009 novel My Abandonment, Granik moves her filmmaking from the Ozarks to the Pacific Northwest, with a story about the growing chasm between a father/widower/veteran afflicted with PTSD who insists on living apart from the world and his teenage daughter who yearns to join it. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie are sublimely cast, creating nuanced and indelible characters that will leave you in suspense about how they can come to terms with the world without breaking each other’s hearts. (CARL SPENCE)
SIFF Says:In 2010, director Debra Granik spotlighted the disintegration of an Ozark community ravaged by the meth trade and launched the career of Jennifer Lawrence. Eight years after WINTER’S BONE, Granik focuses on the ripple effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and introduces us to another promising young talent—New Zealand-born Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. McKenzie plays Tom, a teenager who has been raised not just “off the grid” but apart from society, living in a tent with her traumatized military veteran father, Will (Ben Foster), in the damp, dark parklands outside Portland. Each day, the pair forage for food, practice survival drills, and make occasional forays into small towns so Will can sell his PTSD meds for cash. Tom, who knows of no other life, is an obedient and curious daughter who constantly seeks the approval of her intense and suspicious, but loving, father. All this comes crashing down when Will and Tom are discovered as squatters by park officials and forced to re-enter society, with the help of a patient and respectful social worker (Dana Millican). But Will’s illness and the culture shock of joining the alien world of teenage life proves to be a difficult road for both. This vivid example of hardscrabble realism empathizes with PTSD sufferers and shows how psychological trauma can have far-ranging consequences for all it touches.
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