Directed by M. Blash
It opens with sisters, played by Jena Malone and Chloë Sevigny, gathered around the bedside of their mother, who has just died in her fancy cabin in the Oregon forest. Moments later, the phone rings; it’s a woman who speaks briefly and ambiguously with Sevigny, who interprets the conversation as a prediction that their matriarch will return to life—a potential resurrection spell! Over the next several days, her dead body lies on the bedroom floor, covered with a sheet, while love blooms for Malone with a neighbor (a charming Luke Grimes); their younger brother (Devon Gearhart) struggles to cope with his homosexuality (in an out-of-place subplot); and Sevigny tends to her daughter while waiting for the prophecy to be fulfilled.
There’s a fine line between artful and pretentious, which director Blash toes for the film’s duration. But such gracefulness of camerawork, sincerity of performance (pitched at maximum moroseness), and thoughtfulness of metaphor can excuse the sometimes perhaps overblown attempts at soft beauty. Blash’s style evokes less Malick than Van Sant, moved out of the suburbs and into the woods. Enjoy the rippling surfaces of lakes in purple light, the sparks of forest fires popping into darkness, the passing planes attacking the distant flames with crimson mists of magnesium-ironized water. This isn’t the work of an artist too dumb to know what he’s doing but of a talent trying hard (and usually succeeding) to make something beautiful—so give him a break! Enjoy the fashionable leads, the whispered dialogue, the tracking shots through trees and the artist’s-eye compositions. It’s poetry, so beguiling that scenes shot at magic hour seem perfectly ordinary.
Opens January 31