River of Grass ★★★½

After re-watching Kelly Reichardt’s penetrating film Certain Women last night, I managed to track down her debut film River of Grass for a follow up view tonight.

I am given pause to consider whether I have ever seen a movie depicting two individuals so hopelessly trapped in a state of aimless despair as Cozy and Lee. Cozy a young single mother so unattached to her two preschool children that she keeps imagining when a stranger might show up some day and  take her children off her hands. Lee still languishing at his grandmother’s house at 30 years of age with absolutely no prospects, his only apparent talent the ability to smoke a joint while holding it between his toes.

Other than some whimsical reminiscing from both characters that sheds some light on their sordid childhoods, confirms their human vulnerability, and helps explain their current state of character deprivation,  I had hoped for more redeeming features from these characters to give me some hope of redemption. But alas, I am left only with some semblance of compassion for those sorry souls and their pathetic state.  

Perhaps this is the same reason I was found wanting after the last movie I viewed that was set in Florida and featured a similar tone of despair - The Florida Project. Plenty of character deprivation, children damaged by neglectful and unattached mothers, and minimal redemption to show for it.

Apparently this film was set in the part of Florida where Reichardt grew up, leaving me to wonder if there was anything about this film that served a cathartic purpose in her own experience.

Having said all of this on the downside, I do have to conclude by applauding Reichardt for her talent at drawing in and captivating the viewer with the mundane and the ordinary, a talent which is evident in her debut film and that she would come to perfect in her most recent film Certain Woman.

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